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Article

“Commodity Sui Generis”: The Discourses of Soviet Political Economy of Socialism

History of Political Economy. 2019. Vol. 51. No. S1. P. 75-99.

The article traces trends in Soviet economic discourse from the 1920s until perestroika. We examine the works of leading political economists of this period through the lens of debates on market exchanges under socialism—the central theoretical issue of the political economy of socialism. The discursive structure underlying the debates can be traced back to the writing of the first Soviet textbook on political economy, personally supervised by Joseph Stalin. Our purpose is to assess the impact of this textbook on subsequent discussions of the role of commodity production and market exchanges in a socialist economy. The story suggests that Soviet economic discourse was neither homogeneous nor stable. Rather, it consisted of several subdiscourses of different levels of authoritativeness allowing for a certain stable core as an attribute of any authoritative discourse, as well as for more flexible elements that adjusted the structure to new political and ideological challenges.