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Presented By: Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies

EIHS Lecture: Commodified Communism: Values and Prices in the Polish People’s Republic

Brian Porter-Szücs (University of Michigan)

Brian Porter-Szücs Brian Porter-Szücs
Brian Porter-Szücs
Can a market society exist without commodifying human labor? That question has been debated by Marxist theoreticians for over a century, but in the Polish People’s Republic it penetrated even the most mundane policy discussions. The people who staffed the planning offices had to figure out what things were worth, and in the process they came to erase the line between values (in every sense of that word) and prices. They tried to pursue socialist goals with a neoclassical economic methodology, which even today is often defended as a viable strategy. Maybe it is, but in Poland it failed catastrophically.

Brian Porter-Szűcs is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of History at the University of Michigan, where he has taught since 1994. His most recent book is Całkiem zwyczajny kraj: Historia Polski bez martyrologii (A Perfectly Ordinary Country: A History of Poland without Martyrology) (Wydawnictwo Filtry, 2021), which is a revised and expanded version of Poland and the Modern World: Beyond Martyrdom (Wiley Blackwell, 2014). His earlier works include Faith and Fatherland: Catholicism, Modernity, and Poland (Oxford University Press, 2011), and When Nationalism Began to Hate: Imagining Modern Politics in 19th Century Poland (Oxford University Press, 2000).

This event presented by the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies. It is made possible in part by a generous contribution from Kenneth and Frances Aftel Eisenberg.

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