Between Bukharin and Balcerowicz:
A Comparative History of Economic Thought under Communism

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Einfaches RGB

In April 2014, the IWM in Vienna launched a comparative research project on the history of economic ideas in nine communist countries: Bulgaria, China, Czechoslovakia, GDR, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. National research teams were established whose members will prepare national monographs, a comparative analysis and an anthology of “hidden treasures” of economic thought under communism.

The history books of economic thought lack a vast chapter covering the evolution of economic ideas under communism. Our research program discusses economic ideas under communism in the broader context of collectivism to dispel the conventional view that these ideas are essentially Marxism-based, exotic products of “really-existing socialism”, and therefore basically irrelevant. We are convinced that prejudices such as these can be overcome by a non-parochial research program that portrays the evolution of economic thought in an international context without any retroactive celebration of communist doctrines.

As regards the time frame of research, the title of the project indicates the symbolic boundaries of the program: Between Bukharin and Balcerowicz (in short, Triple B). Most of the history of economic thought under communism can be situated in the period between these two scholars/politicians. Prior to the October Revolution, Nikolai Bukharin turned his back on his professor, Eugen Böhm-Bawerk in Vienna, and started writing a book on the “Economic Theory of the Leisure Class”, which challenged the marginalist paradigm as a whole and marked the beginning of what proved to be a long detour from the history of Western economic thought. The end of the digression can be represented by Leszek Balcerowicz’ turn to neoclassical economics and free-market ideas in the second half of the 1980s.

Project Website:

Further Reading:
Fabricating a Perpetuum Mobile: Economic Thought under Communism Revisited
Report by János Mátyás Kovács in IWMpost 116