The Value of Labor: The Science of Commodification in Hungary, 1920-1956

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University of Chicago Press, Sep 15, 2016 - Business & Economics - 330 pages
At the heart of today’s fierce political anger over income inequality is a feature of capitalism that Karl Marx famously obsessed over: the commodification of labor. Most of us think wage-labor economics is at odds with socialist thinking, but as Martha Lampland explains in this fascinating look at twentieth-century Hungary, there have been moments when such economics actually flourished under socialist regimes. Exploring the region’s transition from a capitalist to a socialist system—and the economic science and practices that endured it—she sheds new light on the two most polarized ideologies of modern history.
Lampland trains her eye on the scientific claims of modern economic modeling, using Hungary’s unique vantage point to show how theories, policies, and techniques for commodifying agrarian labor that were born in the capitalist era were adopted by the socialist regime as a scientifically designed wage system on cooperative farms. Paying attention to the specific historical circumstances of Hungary, she explores the ways economists and the abstract notions they traffic in can both shape and be shaped by local conditions, and she compellingly shows how labor can be commodified in the absence of a labor market. The result is a unique account of economic thought that unveils hidden but necessary continuities running through the turbulent twentieth century.
 

Contents

Introduction
1
Part 1
27
Part 2
137
List of Archives
275
Notes
279
Bibliography
303
Index
327
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About the author (2016)

Martha Lampland is professor of sociology and faculty director of the Science Studies Program at the University of California, San Diego. She is the author or editor of several books, including Standards and their Stories and The Object of Labor, the latter published by the University of Chicago Press.