PSL-NYU-EHESS International Collaborative Project on “Economic History: The Case of Russia and the Soviet Union. Sources, methods and Perspectives

Two workshops:14-15 September 2018 at NYU, Jordan Center, New York – Program
14-15 December 2018 at NYU campus in Paris

In light of the spectacular transformation of the Chinese economy and the shockwave of the 2008 crisis, researchers from varied backgrounds have started to rethink the Soviet economic experience, bringing new questions and new methods to a field that had been marked by the Cold War context.
Scarcity, relative and absolute, as the foundation of the socialist economic experience itself, will constitute the first dimension of our investigation – how it was constructed, understood, managed, how it was experienced, as suffering and as resource, both in its acute form in times of recurring catastrophic crises and as a structural feature. The second dimension flows from this first and examines the intertwining of economic systems and social organizations, and the ways in which access to economic resources shaped hierarchies and inequalities. Third, we will study the plurality of forms of circulation of goods that shaped the economic system, ranging from rationing and administrative allocation to free markets, from taxes to predation, from barter to monetary trade, and the ways these were used and understood by various actors in different contexts, from citizens or consumers to the state itself. Finally, we will endeavor to position the Russian and Soviet experiences in a wider continuum of experiences with non-market forms of economic organization, and will especially pay attention to the ways that ideology, law and lived economic realities led to the formulation of policies, methods, indicators, concepts that aimed both to encompass socialist economic practices and to offer an alternative model of development globally. Money, prices, economic goods, capital and labor, consumption, growth, property, taxes, debt, contract, domestic and international trade – all the most basic concepts and categories of economic thought and policy were the objects of intense debates and numerous reformulations, which greatly contributed to shaping not only the Soviet experience, but the path of the world economy.

Based on the recent renewal of global interest in and the scientific and political relevance of the Soviet economic experience, the project aims at creating an international forum for social scientists (historians, economists, sociologists and anthropologists) to discuss sources, methods and approaches to Russian and Soviet economic history.
It will promote a collective critical reflection on our very different sources and methods, by systematically examining the ways that information on economic practices was gathered and constructed by the state. By bringing together social scientists from varied disciplinary backgrounds, we hope to formulate new working hypotheses on the ways that the Russian / Soviet economic experiences were embedded in social, cultural and political systems.

Coordination: Juliette Cadiot, CERCEC, EHESS, Masha Cerovic, CERCEC, EHESS & Anne O’Donnell, NYU

Author: Aisseco

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