Development and Underdevelopment in the History of Economic Thought

Economic development and political independence in 19th century Polish economic theory

Kightley Marta, Warsaw School of Economics

Polish economic theory in 19th century was very eclectic and strongly contextual. The reception and development of economic theory in Poland in this period was influenced by four major factors: 1. Poland of that period was underdeveloped compared to Western European countries. The economy for centuries was dependent on vast export of agricultural produce which led to underdevelopment of cities and manufacturing production. 2. One of the biggest obstacles to economic development was still prevalent feudal system of forced labour which was holding back both the agriculture production as well as the movement of labour force to cities. 3. Polish intellectuals studied in France and to lesser degree in other Western European cities. They transplanted modern Western European ideas to Polish soil. 4. At the end of 18th century Poland lost independence to three neighboring countries Russia, Austria and Prussia. The period of partition of Poland lasted from the end of 18th century until the early 20th century. Polish economists of that period were preoccupied with the idea of economic growth, improvement of living condition of the rural population, but also quite often with their eyes on the ultimate goal of regaining the political independence of Poland. Polish economists given the complex political situation: the absence of national government and in the presence of often harmful policies of invaders developed ideas and recommendations which would bring about positive change for the society. They sought solutions that would be both institutionally right and possible for Poland but also enabled to avoid social cost associated with industrial revolution in the West. It resulted in often very eclectic approaches. In terms of intellectual provenience Polish economic thought was substantially influenced on one hand by ideas of the French Physiocrats, English and French classical economists but also Mercantilism and German Cameralists.


Keywords: Polish XIX c. economic theory; Economic development; Sovereignty

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