Entrepreneurship, knowledge and employment

Political Economy of Socialism as a Phenomenon of Intellectual History

Ananyin Oleg, Higher School of Economics, National Research University; Institute of Economics, Russian Academy of Sciences

M. Friedman predicted that “the subjects that were dealt with in the 1st and the 99th volume of the [Economic] Journal – labour, money, doctrinal history, & socialism – will… be represented in the 199th”. Why Friedman left socialism on economists’ agenda for a century ahead? Evidently he had no doubts that people will still be looking for an alternative economic system. Political economy of socialism (PES) was intended to provide a scientific foundation for such belief. It was considered a branch of economics in the USSR & former socialist countries, but was often criticized for ideological biases & even irrationality. What seems to be lacking is an attempt to assess this phenomenon in its own right. The paper is a part of endeavour to fill in this gap. PES is a combination of three interlaced discourses. The 1st was focused on interpretation & development of Marxian ideas about future society. It was ideological by nature and long-term in political implications. The 2nd discourse was pragmatic and short-term. It was based on lessons derived from practical experiences. The 3d discourse of political rhetoric interfered with official announcements of current phases of socialist construction. Politicians were eager to demonstrate progress on the way to the ‘bright future’, and these announcements were to be integrated both into the ideological doctrine, & into current political strategy. This kind of imperative made all three discourses entangled. This peculiar context of discussions on economic theory of socialism was largely neglected by historians of economic thought. Both Soviet historiography and Western Sovietological mainstream tended to disregard heterogeneity of logic underlying this literature, to judge it from some exogenous criteria. However insightful these elaborations could be they missed the point: PES was not intended to emulate market economy. It dealt with an unfinished draft of a non-existent entity unattainable for empirical testing.


Keywords: Intellectual history; political economy of socialism; economic discourses

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