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By Force of Thought: Irregular Memoirs of an Intellectual Journey

Author

Listed:
  • Janos Kornai

    () (Collegium Budapest)

Abstract

Janos Kornai, a distinguished Hungarian economist, began his adult life as an ardent believer in socialism and then became a critic of the communist political and economic system. He lost family members in the Holocaust, contributed to the ideological preparation for the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, and became an influential theorist of the post-Soviet economic transition. He has been a journalist, a researcher prohibited from teaching in his home country, and a tenured professor at Harvard. By Force of Thought traces Kornai's lifelong intellectual journey and offers a subjective complement to his academic research. Disenchanted with communism, Kornai published Overcentralization (1956), the first book written by someone living behind the Iron Curtain to be openly critical of Soviet-style economics. Although it was attacked in Hungary, it was hailed by Western economists. The Kornai-Lipták theory on two-level planning captured the attention of mathematical economists. Kornai went on to publish the controversial Anti-Equilibrium (1971), a critique of the general equilibrium theory underpinning mainstream economic analyses of markets, Economics of Shortage (1980), The Road to a Free Economy (1990), and the summary of his lifetime research, The Socialist System (1992). An intellectual emissary between East and West, Kornai commuted between Harvard and Budapest for many years. Kornai's memoir describes his research—including his present-day evaluation of his past work—as well as the social and political environments in which he did his work. The difficulties faced by a critic of central planning in a communist country are made especially vivid by material from newly opened secret police files and informers' reports on his activities. By Force of Thought will be an essential resource for students of economic thought, socialist systems, and postsocialist transition, and for readers interested in Eastern European intellectual life before, during, and after communism.

Suggested Citation

  • Janos Kornai, 2008. "By Force of Thought: Irregular Memoirs of an Intellectual Journey," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262612240, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:mtp:titles:0262612240
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    Cited by:

    1. J. Barkley Rosser Jr & Richard P.F. Holt & David Colander, 2010. "European Economics at a Crossroads," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 13585, April.
    2. Barbara Dluhosch, 2011. "European Economics at a Crossroads, by J. Barkley Rosser, Jr., Richard P. F. Holt, and David Colander," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(3), pages 629-631, August.
    3. Chenggang Xu, 2017. "Capitalism and Socialism: A Review of Kornai's Dynamism, Rivalry, and the Surplus Economy," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 55(1), pages 191-208, March.
    4. Juan Carlos de Pablo, 2009. "¿Qué significa ser economista en argentina?," CEMA Working Papers: Serie Documentos de Trabajo. 410, Universidad del CEMA.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Janos Kornai; socialism; postsocialist transition;

    JEL classification:

    • A31 - General Economics and Teaching - - Multisubject Collective Works - - - Multisubject Collected Writings of Individuals
    • B31 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought: Individuals - - - Individuals
    • P20 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - General

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