Fifteen years after the Global Financial Crisis: Recessions and Business Cycles in the History of Economic Thought

Between the East and the West: The Life and Work of Alfred Zauberman

Svorenčík Andrej, University of Pennsylvania
Fernández-Villaverde Jesús, University of Pennsylvania

Alfred Zauberman (1903-1984) was an LSE economist nearly forgotten today. Yet, from 1967 until 1980, he published five books on Soviet planning and mathematical economics, displaying highly technical and close knowledge of the latest economic developments behind the Iron Curtain. We situate his work in the context of the cold war development of economics. We argue that Zauberman acted as an intermediary between western Sovietology, Economic Systems Research, and mathematical economics on the one side and Soviet mathematical economics and planning on the other. However, to understand his research and its context, we must reconstruct the various stations of his fascinating life. Zauberman was born in Lodz, Poland, into a Jewish family in 1903. He received a Ph.D. in Law and Economics from the University of Cracow in 1928 under the supervision of Adam Krzyżanowski, the founder of the Cracow School of Economics. Although his thesis dealt with the issue of Russian monetary policy in the years 1914-1924 and his classmates went on to become successful economists —most notably Oskar Lange— he pursued a successful career as a commercial lawyer in the interwar period. Following the Russian and German occupation of Poland in 1939, he escaped via Lithuania and Shanghai and finally found a safe harbor in the UK in 1941. He spent the war serving in the Polish government in exile. After WWII, with all but one relative having perished during the holocaust, he remained in London, married a British woman, and resumed his interest in East European and Soviet economic affairs. Besides being a freelance economic journalist for a London-based Polish daily, in 1949, he started working as a part-time and, from 1956, full-time scriptwriter in the Central European Service of the BBC. In the academic year 1958-59, he joined the LSE as a part-time Lecturer in Soviet Economics, switching to full-time in 1964 when he was already 61 years old. He was promoted to Reader in Economics in 1967 before retiring in 1970. He continued to lecture, holding the post of visiting professor or senior fellow at several American (Berkeley, Columbia, Harvard, NYU, Santa Barbara), Canadian (Toronto), and West German universities (Konstanz), and the Vienna Institute for Comparative Economic Studies. He died in 1984.

Area: Eshet Conference

Keywords: Alfred Zauberman, mathematical economics and planning, emigration

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