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János Kornai’s Contributions to Economic Analysis




The publication of János Kornai’s memoirs, By Force of Thought, provides an excellent opportunity to remind ourselves of Kornai’s great contributions to economic research. This paper discusses both his basic research strategy and some of his main research results. Kornai has usually dealt with great, system-oriented issues, and he has been more inspired by real-world observations than by scholarly work by others. The paper also emphasizes that Kornai’s two most celebrated characterizations of real world socialist economies – "shortage economies" and production units with "soft budget constraints" – are analytically closely connected. Kornai also, in his more recent works, regards the centralized political system during communism as the basic explanation for the centralized nature of the economic system in these countries.

Suggested Citation

  • Lindbeck, Assar, 2007. "János Kornai’s Contributions to Economic Analysis," Working Paper Series 724, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:0724

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Thomas Piketty & Gilles Postel-Vinay & Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, 2006. "Wealth Concentration in a Developing Economy: Paris and France, 1807–1994," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 236-256, March.
    2. Arthur B. Kennickell, 2006. "Currents and undercurrents: changes in the distribution of wealth, 1989-2004," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2006-13, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    3. Wolff, Edward N., 2007. "The retirement wealth of the baby boom generation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 1-40, January.
    4. Roine, Jesper & Waldenstrom, Daniel, 2008. "The evolution of top incomes in an egalitarian society: Sweden, 1903-2004," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1-2), pages 366-387, February.
    5. Kopczuk, Wojciech & Saez, Emmanuel, 2004. "Top Wealth Shares in the United States, 1916-2000: Evidence From Estate Tax Returns," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 57(2), pages 445-487, June.
    6. Feinstein, Charles, 1996. "The Equalizing of Wealth in Britain since the Second World War," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(1), pages 96-105, Spring.
    7. N. Anders Klevmarken, 2004. "On The Wealth Dynamics Of Swedish Families, 1984-98," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 50(4), pages 469-491, December.
    8. Anthony Atkinson & Thomas Piketty, 2007. "Top incomes over the twentieth century: A contrast between continental european and english-speaking countries," Post-Print halshs-00754859, HAL.
    9. Atkinson, A. B. & Piketty, Thomas (ed.), 2007. "Top Incomes Over the Twentieth Century: A Contrast Between Continental European and English-Speaking Countries," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199286881.
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    More about this item


    Socialism; Soft Budget Constraints; Shortage Economy; Economic Centralization;

    JEL classification:

    • B24 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Socialist; Marxist; Scraffian
    • B31 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought: Individuals - - - Individuals
    • L10 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - General
    • P20 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - General

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