Development and Underdevelopment in the History of Economic Thought

Tugan-Baranovsky and the West

Allisson Francois, University of Lausanne

Tugan-Baranovsky (1865–1919) is one of the most prolific Russian economist of the turn of the XIX-XXth centuries. His thought was largely influenced by Western thought, like most of his fellow Russian economists. But Tugan-Baranovsky’s theories did also influence Western economic thought in return. To characterise this circulation of ideas between the West, Russia, and back to the West, this paper draws on the notion of “cultural transfer” (developed by Michel Espagne), in three steps. In a first part, “Tugan-Baranovsky Borrowing from the West”, we establish a catalogue raisonné of his Western influences: his travels in Europe, his contacts with Western colleagues, his numerous Western readings in several languages, (and in a variety of currents: neo-Kantian philosophy, British classical political economy, Marx, Austrian marginalism, German historical school, so-called utopian socialists, etc.), his publications (numerous biographies of Western economists, translation of Western economists, etc.). This catalogue shows how much he owes to Western thought. As a useful counterweight to this picture, a characterisation of what he owes to the Russian culture is also attempted. In a second part, “Tugan-Baranovsky Adapting Western Thought to Russia”, we show how this Western influence translates in an original thought. Western ideas are transformed in the Russian context. In five short cases studies, we show the process of adaptation to new circumstances: in the theory of crises, in the study of capitalism in Russia, in the revision of Marxism, in the theory of value, and in the theory of cooperatives. Eventually, in the third and last part, “Back to the West”, the intellectual legacy of Tugan-Baranovsky’s ideas in the West is scrutinised. The focus is on the distinction between the theories that were famous in the West, and those that remained non-influential. Tentative comments on the reasons for this distinction are offered.


Keywords: Tugan-Baranovsky (Mikhail Ivanovich), cultural transfer, West, Russian economic thought