Development and Underdevelopment in the History of Economic Thought

Ferry Between the East and the West: Mathematical Economics in the Communist Hungary

Kőhegyi Gergely, Corvinus University of Budapest

The paper investigates the emergence of the mathematical approach in economic thought in Hungary during the communist period. This country presented a specific pattern in that field, because many scholars had started to use the language of mathematics soon, and hence got the possibility to take part in the Western dialogue, but the fact that they used it in a different way prevented the real Westernization of economic thought, even after 1989. In spite of the methodological and ideological debates modern mathematical tools were taught at the relevant university, this type of research was encouraged in several institutions, some of the leading theorists were known and accepted soon by the international scientific community, their pupils also published papers in leading journals and took part in western conferences, but the majority of them was unable or even did not want to attach to the mainstream. I will argue that the main causes of this pattern are embedded into the Hungarian institutional background and try to give a historical explanation to these phenomena. To this end, first, I sketch the role of the most significant institutions and the relations among them, and after that, I illustrate my findings with the case of two very influential personages in this field: András Bródy and János Kornai.

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Keywords: History of Mathematical Economics, Eastern European Economic Thought, Communism

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