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Abram Bergson: The Life of a Comparativist1,2


  • Gur Ofer

    () (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel.)


Abram Bergson is best known for his monumental work of creating the methodology and estimating Soviet GNP, its structure and its rate of growth. This work culminated but did not end with his 1961 Volume on The Real National Income of Soviet Russia Since 1928. The present paper is devoted to another major effort of Bergson, the evaluation of the comparative efficiency of the socialist system, relative to market, capitalist systems. Starting from theoretical considerations of welfare economics, Bergson defined the two models and their respective objective functions. Rejecting the possibility of reaching a judgment on the basis of theory alone, Bergson concluded that the real test of the comparison is in the implementation of the two systems on the ground. This paper follows the evolution of Bergson's work and thinking on this subject over the years, with the accumulation of theoretical and methodological considerations and of empirical evidence. It discovers great care, objective judgments, as well as deep hesitations before making such judgments. The final judgment was of course in the right direction, but it did not lead him to foresee the demise of the socialist system. Bergson titled his autobiographical notes (1991) ‘Recollections and Reflections of a Comparativist’, and a very careful comparativist he indeed was. Comparative Economic Studies (2005) 47, 240–258. doi:10.1057/palgrave.ces.8100109

Suggested Citation

  • Gur Ofer, 2005. "Abram Bergson: The Life of a Comparativist1,2," Comparative Economic Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Association for Comparative Economic Studies, vol. 47(2), pages 240-258, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:compes:v:47:y:2005:i:2:p:240-258

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    Cited by:

    1. Ofer, Gur, 2010. "Twenty Years Later and the Socialist Heritage is still Kicking: the Case of Russia," WIDER Working Paper Series 059, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

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