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20-09-2019 | Issue 1-2/2021

Public Choice 1-2/2021

Socialism and Kornai’s revolutionary perspective

Journal:
Public Choice > Issue 1-2/2021
Author:
Mehrdad Vahabi
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Abstract

In this paper, I argue that the principal message of Janos Kornai’s work was to underscore that the dysfunctional properties of socialism are endemic and systemic, and cannot be “reformed”. In a sense, Kornai’s role was similar to the French Encyclopedists in preparing the ground for France’s 1789 revolution. Kornai’s intellectual contribution was to formulate a revolutionary discourse emphasizing the sterility of half-measure, cosmetic changes, and reform packages. His conclusion was based on two foundations: (1) the unity or what Kornai calls the ‘coherence’ of socialism as a system, and (2) rejection of market socialism as hopelessly confused. Accordingly, reforms would introduce inconsistencies at best, without solving socialism’s chronic problems. Moreover, the inconsistences of the half-measures would erode socialist systems, inevitably leading to revolution. This paper will examine Kornai’s two tenets of revolutionary discourse and his final conclusion in light of Hungarian economic reforms that started on January 1, 1968.

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