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The System Paradigm

  • János Kornai

The introduction explains the sense in which the concept of a paradigm, whose originator, T.S. Kuhn, was inspired by the history of the national sciences, is applied to the context of the social sciences. Here the new paradigm does not necessarily replace the old; several paradigms may function effectively side by side. The milestones in the development of the system paradigm have been the works of Marx, Mises, Hayek, Polányi, Schumpeter and Eucken. Although these make a heterogeneous list in terms of their philosophies and political positions, they share a 'system approach'. They deal not just with individual details of the economy but with the system as a whole, and not just with the economy but with the political, ideological and social dimensions, paying special heed to the interactions between each sphere. The great task for the system paradigm is to study the post-socialist transition. For this, it is indispensable; its explanatory power cannot be replaced by any other paradigm. On the other hand, those applying the system paradigm (like the exponents of other paradigms) are often gravely mistaken. The predictive force of the system paradigm is limited, which urges modesty upon those who employ it.

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Paper provided by William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan in its series William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series with number 278.

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Length: pages
Date of creation: 01 Apr 1998
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wdi:papers:1998-278
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  1. Stanley Fischer & Carlos A. Végh Gramont & Ratna Sahay, 1996. "Stabilization and Growth in Transition Economies; The Early Experience," IMF Working Papers 96/31, International Monetary Fund.
  2. McCloskey, Donald N, 1983. "The Rhetoric of Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 481-517, June.
  3. Kornai, Janos, 1992. "The Socialist System: The Political Economy of Communism," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198287766, March.
  4. Portes, Richard, 1994. "Transformation Traps," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(426), pages 1178-89, September.
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