Development and Underdevelopment in the History of Economic Thought

Yuli Zhukovsky’s economic policy and Russia’s “agrarian issue” of 1850s-60s

Galeev Anton, Higher School of Economics

The major and obvious concern for the Russian economic thought in the 19th century was economic backwardness. The “agrarian issue” was the kernel of debates on economic development, comprising many problems and challenges faced by the predominantly agrarian economy. This paper focuses on ideas of Yuli Zhukovsky, a prominent Russian economist, journalist and public official. He was a representative of the radical Russian intelligentsia of the 1850s–60s. In reception of Western radical idea, he followed Proudhon and criticized Marx. Later in life, Zhukovsky set up a successful career and rose up to the head of the Russian State Bank. According to Zhukovsky, the key to economic development was in consistent institutional reforms aimed at the efficient regulation of employment of peasants and workers and the increasing mobility of labor. He criticized the attempts to adopt Western patterns disregarding Russian conditions. In the meantime, he advised to consider the agrarian situation elsewhere, for example in French Algeria (Zhukovsky, 1863). He was also keenly aware of recent developments in Western economics. He provided the first extensive mathematical interpretation of Ricardo’s value theory in Russia (Zhukovsky, 1871) thus becoming the Russian pioneer of “proto-marginalist” approach. The proposed paper focuses on policy implications of Zhukovsky’s interpretation of Ricardo for Russian agrarian situation. This may contribute to understanding the radical non-Marxist approach to Russia’s economic development. References Zhukovsky, Yuli G. 1863. “Вопрос о поземельном устройстве алжирских арабов” (Question about the land system of Algerian Arabs) (In Russian) Sovremennik 100, no. 4, 213-224. Zhukovsky, Yuli G. 1871. История политической литературы XIX в. (The history of political literature of the XIX century) (In Russian). Saint-Petersburg: Izdanie N. N. Polyakova.

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Keywords: economic development, agrarian issue, protomarginalism