Foreign Trade Theory and Politics in State Socialism

SFB 1199

This section examines the connection between knowledge production and knowledge adaptation in the economic field in countries of the Eastern Bloc. It focuses on debates about foreign trade’s function in the development of a »socialist world system« and the concrete reform attempts they sparked in Eastern Europe.

Yevsei Liberman, Soviet economist, 1967. Dutch National Archives, The Hague, Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau (ANeFo), 1945-1989. © Commons Wikimedia

Speaking About Foreign Trade: How Eastern Economists in the Cold War Shaped Socialist Globalisation Discourses and Practices
The Stalinist development model of socialism assigned no value-adding function to foreign trade. This changed over the course of decolonisation in the late 1950s, when many socialist countries of Eastern Europe were confronted with the desire of former colonies of the West in Asia, Africa and Latin America to mutually increase their trade volumes. In addition, East-European state socialism was meant to help construct institutions of economic control and development in the Global South. This challenge corresponded with the ambition of expanding  »world socialism’s« influence in the Cold War, yet required reconceptionalising one’s own development model. These researches aim at the connection between knowledge production and adaptation on the economic field in the countries of the Eastern Bloc, reconstructed through debates about foreign trade’s role in the development of a »socialist world system« as well as about economic reform programs in eastern Europe. The goal is to question pervasive assumptions about state socialism’s dogmatic rigidity and the social studies’ role in this system. The study is also about how knowledge was handled in authoritarian regimes.

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