The Value Of Labor: The Science Of Commodification In Hungary, 1920-1956

Paperback | September 15, 2016

byMartha Lampland

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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. 
 

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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...

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.  
Format:PaperbackDimensions:368 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.9 inPublished:September 15, 2016Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022631460X

ISBN - 13:9780226314600

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

     Note on the Text
     List of Abbreviations
     Glossary
     List of Illustrations
     Acknowledgements
     Introduction
Part 1
1 Moral Imperatives, Political Objectives
2 Rationalizing the Economic Infrastructure
3 Formalizing Practices
4 The Problem with Money
Part 2
5 State Matters
6 A New Matrix of Labor Value
7 Administering Coercion
8 Fighting over Numbers
Conclusion
     List of Archives
     Notes
     Bibliography
     Index

Editorial Reviews

“The Value of Labor is a work of history that takes in, along with peasants and workers, the accounts by which their labor was organized. Routine little things like infrastructure, standards, and calculations of work and productivity are almost always enveloped in too much cunning and resistance to remain boring. Humor is one of Lampland’s specialties, and she deploys it brilliantly as she explains the evolving economic logic of rural Hungary in a period of intense tumult. Her work reveals that the ironies of socialist accounting were not least among the contradictions that brought down East European socialism.”