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Crossing in the Night of the Cold War: Alternative Visions and Related Tensions in Western and Soviet General Equilibrium Theory


  • D. Wade Hands

    () (Department of Economics - University of Puget Sound, Tacoma (WA, USA))


This paper extends various arguments in the recent historical literature on Soviet mathematical economics during the Cold War. It examines some of the tensions associated with the attempt to blend Walrasian economics and Soviet planning. The main argument is that the two literatures crossed in the night of the Cold War. Given the two different political-economic and scientific contexts, the aspect of the Walrasian vision most emphasized in the Western literature was exactly the opposite of the aspect most emphasized in the Soviet literature. For Western economists the main concern was how (how possibly) competitive market prices could coordinate the actions of heterogeneous economic agents, while the main concern of Soviet scholars was how (how possibly) the theory of competitive markets could be used to help facilitate the efficient implementation of a central planning mechanism with a single (social) goal. Many features of the mathematics were the same, but the different goals and contexts created various tensions within the mathematical models produced by the two scientific communities.

Suggested Citation

  • D. Wade Hands, 2016. "Crossing in the Night of the Cold War: Alternative Visions and Related Tensions in Western and Soviet General Equilibrium Theory," History of Economic Ideas, Fabrizio Serra Editore, Pisa - Roma, vol. 24(2), pages 51-74.
  • Handle: RePEc:hid:journl:v:24:y:2016:2:3:p:51-74

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