Obituary: Josef Steindl

Josef Steindl, economist: born 14 April 1912; died 7 March 1993.

THOUGH trained initially in the liberal Austrian tradition, the eminent Austrian-born economist Josef Steindl described his economics as 'the product of England and Kalecki'.

Steindl was born in Vienna in 1912 and became an economist because his preference for becoming a biologist 'would have taken too much time'. He had an apolitical upbringing and no links to left-wing movements. Nevertheless he absorbed well the maxim of his first teacher, Richard Strigl, a pupil of Eugen von Bohm-Bawerk, that the discussion of policy depended first upon understanding how economies work.

Steindl worked from 1935 to 1938 at the Austrian Institute of Economic Research (WIFO), the research institute started by Ludwig Von Mises. After the German occupation of Austria, Steindl lost his job because of his hostility to the regime. Through the offices of Friedrich von Hayek and other Austrian liberals abroad Steindl came to the United Kingdom, first to a lecturing post at Balliol College, Oxford (1938-41), then as a research worker at the Oxford Institute of Statistics; he was one of the remarkable group of European exiles from Fascism then on its staff. They were inspired by their colleague Michal Kalecki, the Polish Marxist economist who independently had discovered the principal propositions of Keynes's general theory in the 1930s. Thereafter Kalecki was Steindl's role-model; indeed, his own work resembles Kalecki's in style, substance and depth more than any other economist of his generation.

In 1950 Steindl returned to Austria. Evidently, for ideological reasons, he could not get a job at the University of Vienna, so he returned to his job at WIFO, retiring in 1978 but remaining actively associated as a consultant with the institute until his death. Last May saw a splendid conference under WIFO's auspices to celebrate Steindl's 80th birthday. In 1970 he was made an Honorary Professor of the University of Vienna and in 1974-75 he was a visiting professor at Stanford University in California.

In the 1980s Steindl was a regular lecturer at the international summer school held at Trieste in August. This allowed younger scholars from all over the world to get to know him personally. At Trieste Steindl formed particularly close friendships with Amit Bhaduri, with whom he collaborated on several papers when Bhaduri spent some time in Vienna, and with the late Krishna Bharadwaj.

Steindl published two books, Small and Big Business; economic problems of the size of firms (1945) and Maturity and Stagnation in American Capitals (1952), both of which are recognised as classics in the literature. In 1990 Macmillan published a volume of his essays of the past 40 years. Steindl's work was marked by austere clarity, precise analysis, thorough and intelligent use of data, a feel for the role of institutions and of historical, political and sociological factors. Most of all, he could sense and set out the overall, systemic irrationalities of what was on the face of it sensible or at least necessary behaviour by the individuals and/or groups that make up the body economic and politic.

In Small and Big Businesses he explained the simultaneous presence of small and big firms in industries by the access which small firms have to niche markets for their products and the segregated markets for their labour; big firms are able to exploit scales of production and of investment which are denied to their smaller rivals, not least by financial limitations, and which allow the big ones permanently to receive monopoly rents. In Maturity and Stagnation he set out the deep-seated sources of systemic stagnation in advanced oligopolistic industrial societies, especially the United States, which derived from the strategic need for individual oligopolists to create excess capacity. The outcome is a long-term tendency for overall investment spending cumulatively to decline.

Josef Steindl was an unassuming, rather solitary person who hated careerism and ruthless ambition. In his work he explicitly identified heroes, villains, and victims - and said so. Like his mentor Kalecki, he had a deliciously dry sense of humour. He wanted his discipline to wipe out unemployment and poverty, so that others could, if they wished, have the opportunity to do what he himself loved so much to do - walk in the mountains, listen to music and enjoy the company of close friends who shared his decent humane values - with a smile.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week