Development and Underdevelopment in the History of Economic Thought

The wave of Mach’s positivism in the early Soviet Union economic science

Burina Elizaveta, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

The first two decades after the Russian Revolution marked the most notable advancement of the economic science in the Soviet Union. During the period of the New Economic Policy adopted by the Party in 1921, the ideological control over economics was, in comparison with the subsequent periods, relatively mild. The Soviet economists were still able to travel to get education, participate to the conferences and exchange the ideas with leading western economists and philosophers. One of the results of that exchange was the emergence of a philosophical current named Russian Machism. There is enough evidence to claim that Ernst Mach’s positivism had a strong influence on a quite heterogeneous group of Soviet economists, among which A. Bogdanov, V. Bazarov, N. Bukharin. This paper is an attempt to analyze, first, the process of the assimilation of the positivist philosophical ideas under the specific circumstances of the new-born political regime in the Soviet Union, and second, the ways in which these ideas, adopted and adapted, determined the economic modeling. Tracing the channels of Mach’s positivism integration into early Soviet Union science, one could notice that economics was not the first field that experienced positivist impact. Mach’s ideas were introduced in philosophy of science by P. Engelmeyer, an engineer who devoted his work to the elaboration of the new science – evrology, that studies the issues of creativity and inventions. T. Rainov (philosopher, historian of science), also interested in the theory of creativity, studied Mach’s epistemology. A. Bogdanov, fascinated by the idea of empiriomonism created the “unified organizational science” that he called “tektology”, and then, his closest like-minded friend V. Bazarov applied Bogdanov’s philosophy to the practical tasks of Soviet economy's restauration period. Together with the economic theories, influenced by Mach's positivism, this paper examines their perception by the Soviet authorities.


Keywords: Russian Machism, positivism, Bogdanov, Bazarov, empiriomonism

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