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Joan Robinson and Paul Samuelson found little to agree upon in a correspondence which began in 1946, shortly after the death of Keynes, and ended a year prior to Robinson’s death in 1983. One way to read the correspondence is to keep in mind that Keynesian uncertainty was central to Robinson’s understanding of how capitalist economies function. Samuelson, never impressed by Keynes’s handling of uncertainty, understood capital theory—if not capitalism—in terms of dynamic programming, with its perfect foresight entailments. This is evident throughout his letters to Robinson, although rarely acknowledged in a straightforward way, particularly during the period from 1971 until 1975 when their disagreements came to a head. On several occasions, Robinson despaired of making any progress in getting Samuelson to acknowledge the importance of her questions. Unfailingly polite to her, he granted only in a letter to Solow that, “She is on to a real problem...”


This is the author's accepted manuscript of a chapter published in Paul Samuelson, part of the book series Remaking Economics: Eminent Post-War Economists. The version of record can be found at

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