A concordance is more at home in literary criticism and theology than
in economics. So foreign is this particular research technique to economists
that many will reach for their dictionary before they get past the title
page. My Webster's Ninth defines concordance as "an alphabetical
index of the principal words in a book...." The word "principle," though,
must be understood to exclude only articles, conjunctions, prepositions
and pronouns and all forms of the verb "to be." All other words used by
Keynes in his General Theory  are listed in alphabetical order
together with the total number of times each is used and the identification
by page and paragraph of each use. We can note, for instance, that Keynes
used the word "same" 209 times and the word "different" 120 times. He used
the word "optimistic" three times and the word "pessimistic" only twice.
Even the ifs (66), ands (2,123), and buts (496) and other "excluded" words
are listed with their total word counts. This 280-page index plus a two-page
preface by the editor and a two-page introduction by Kenneth E. Boulding
make up the concordance.
Why a concordance of the General Theory?--or of any book, for that matter? A concordance is offered as a research tool, as a means to an end. A comprehensive listing of the words Keynes used may help us to understand how Keynes thought, why he believed what he did, and what his message really was. Of course, we need help in these directions only if the alternative means of reading the words in the sequence in which Keynes himself arranged them proves unsuitable for achieving these ends. Let's give Keynes a chance to answer a few simple questions and possibly render this concordance superfluous:
Q. Please, Professor Keynes, what do you mean by "involuntary unemployment"?
A: My definition is...as follows: Men are involuntarily unemployed if, in the event of a small rise in the price of wage-goods relative to the money-wage, both the aggregate supply of labour willing to work for the current money-wage and the aggregate demand for it at that wage would be greater than the existing volume of employment (p. 15).
Q: Please, Professor Keynes, what governs private investment in a market economy?
A: Our conclusions can be stated in the most general form...as follows: No further increase in the rate of investment is possible when the greatest amongst the own-rates of own-interest of all available assets is equal to the greatest amongst the marginal efficiencies of all assets, measured in terms of the asset whose own-rate of own-interest is greatest (p. 236).
Q: Please, Professor Keynes, doesn't monetary expansion trigger an artificial boom?
A: [A]t this point we are in deep water. The wild duck has dived down to the bottom--as deep as she can get--and bitten fast hold of the weed and tangle and all the rubbish that is down there, and it would need an extraordinarily clever dog to dive down and fish her up again (p. 183).
Please, Professor Glahe, provide us with a concordance.
In 1959, Henry Hazlitt  provided a virtual page-by-page critique of the General Theory exposing many contradictions, fallacies, and confusions in Keynes's arguments. But The Failure of the "New Economics" was largely dismissed by the economics profession partly on the grounds that Hazlitt was not a (degreed) economist and partly on the grounds that his focus was too narrow. The journalist-turned-Keynesian-critique, it was claimed, never perceived the underlying theme nor understood the central message of Keynes's book.
For several decades, now, Keynesian interpreters who have overlooked the problems identified by Hazlitt in order to get the big picture have gotten many different and conflicting big pictures. Well-credentialed Keynesian scholars can be found on both sides of key issues: Is the General Theory a continuation of the work begun in Keynes's Treatise on Money, or is it a revolutionary break from his earlier book? Does the so-called liquidity trap, which prevents a falling wage rate from reducing unemployment and renders monetary policy impotent, figure importantly in Keynes's case for fiscal activism, or it only a curious extreme with no historical or practical importance? Does Keynes actually contend that the economy can be suffering from widespread unemployment and nonetheless be in equilibrium, or is he saying that market adjustments in circumstances of economywide disequilibrium may need to be augmented with or supplanted by policy prescription? Is the assumption of fixed or sticky prices and wages critical to Keynes's arguments, or is it merely a convenient means of making those arguments? Is the standard textbook rendition of Keynesianism, which largely abstracts from problems of economic uncertainty, faithful to Keynes's theory, or is the notion that capital markets are debilitated by pervasive uncertainty an important part of his central message.
If a reading of the text-as-is doesn't resolve these questions, maybe a concordance can help. we can now be sure, for instance, that the word "trap," as in "liquidity trap" does not appear in the book. (The term was actually introduced by Dennis Robertson in a critique of Keynes's theory of interest.) However, if we cross-check the word "absolute" (16) with the word "liquidity" (44) or "liquidity-preference" (47),we find two overlaps--on pages 191 and 207. The first overlap reference leads us to a discussion concerning "the rate of interest at which liquidity-preference becomes absolute"; the second to a similar passage in which "liquidity-preference may become virtually absolute...." We haven't exactly identified the true significance of absolute liquidity preference in the General Theory, but, at least, the concordance helped us find the relevant passages.
Was Keynes an equilibrium theorist or a disequilibrium theorist? Here, the concordance provides information that would otherwise be difficult to come by. The word equilibrium is used 77 times; the words disequilibrium and disequilibria are used once apiece. A quick check of the two instances in which Keynes appended the prefix "dis-" provides no support for the claim that Keynes was interested in disequilibrium. Of course, there is still room for the claim that Keynes used the tools of Marshallian partial equilibrium analysis, which were the only tools he knew about, to analyze an economy in macroeconomic disequilibrium.
All in all, it is probably true that the very existence of this concordance tells us more about Keynes's book than even the most competent and inspired use of the concordance can tell us. The fact that there is (presumably) a demand for the concordance implies that researchers are now stopping just short of tea leaves and dream analysis in their efforts to decode Keynes's message.
Further, the fact that this concordnace is being supplied carries its own message. Time-saving and cost-saving developments in computer technology have shifted the efforts of at least one economist away from more conventional research to the production of a concordance. A digital scanner and word processor have accomplished a task that would otherwise have occupied and army of monks for many a fortnight.
The computer sorts and counts words mindlessly. Boulding notes in his introduction that the word "interest" is the second most used non-trivial word in The (9,541) General (103) Theory (225) of Employment (615), Interest (712), and Money (505). But two of the first ten reference to the use of the word "interest," we discover, are instances where the word means "aroused attention." "Ricardo expressly repudiated any interest in the amount of the national dividend..." (p. 4, emphasis altered). And "Queen Victoria was a better queen but not a happier woman than Queen Elizabeth--a proposition not without meaning and not without interest" (p. 40, emphasis added).
The concordance includes entries that may puzzle idle browsers. For instance: "san (1) 355:1." This means that the word "san" is used only once in Keynes's book and that it appears in the first paragraph of page 355. Few users of the concordance will link this entry with a much earlier one: "Antonio (1) 355:1." According to Keynes, literature touting the ideas of Silvio Gesell, whose inflationist schemes Keynes endorsed, were distributed in San Antonio.
Other, less obvious but more serious, instances of splitting a two-word name or term make the concordance less useful than it might otherwise be. Keynes's concept of "user costs," for example, is sometimes identified as a key subjectivist insight and a link between the thinking of Keynes and the thinking of the more thoroughgoing subjectivists of the Austrian school. But "user cost" does not appear as a single entry. "User" appears 97 times; "cost" and "costs" appear 294 and 45 times, respectively. The cross-checking required to identify every instance of "user cost(s)" would be tedious.
All such problems aside, it can be said that among major twentieth-century contributions to economics, the General Theory--and probably only the General Theory--remains enough of an enigma to justify a concordance at all. Two cheers for Glahe for bestowing upon Keynes this unique honor.
1. Hazlitt, Henry, The Failure of the "New Economics".
Princeton, NJ: D. van Nostrand, 1959.
2. Keynes, John Maynard, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1936.