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Kalecki, Michał

(1899–1970), economist. Michał Kalecki was born in Łódź to a middle-class Jewish family. His regular studies were made difficult by familial and financial problems, so he mastered mathematics and economics on his own. His research on economic fluctuations resulted in an appointment to a position at the Institute of Business Cycles and Prices, a position from which he resigned in 1936 to protest the firing of two colleagues for political reasons. Kalecki gained international acclaim after he published Próby teorii koniunktury (An Essay on the Theory of the Business Cycle; 1933), a study that anticipated the theories of John Maynard Keynes. In 1930, he married Adela Szternfeld.

Kalecki was considered the unquestioned leader of leftist economists. Apart from his many professional publications, he also wrote for Przegląd Socjalistyczny, the organ of the Polish Socialist Party. During World War II, he was at Oxford, where he explored the wartime economy, using the United Kingdom as an example. After the war, he examined issues of reconstruction and employment, and in 1946 returned to Poland for three months in an unsuccessful attempt to collaborate with the Communist government.

Beginning in 1947, Kalecki worked at the United Nations Secretariat, where he studied the postwar world economy and advised various governments, including those of Israel (1950) and Mexico (1953). When his influence lessened because of his leftist views, he returned to Poland in 1955. He was active in the country’s economic life during the “Polish October” of 1956, working with groups to prepare the theoretical background for reforms. From 1957 to 1961, he served as vice chairman of the Economic Council, created in 1956 to be an advisory body for the government.

Kalecki was also a professor and a member of the Polish Academy of Sciences; a member of advisory boards of economic journals; an economic adviser to India and Cuba (1960); and a professor at the Central School of Planning and Statistics in Warsaw. By 1960, however, he was at odds with Polish authorities; consequently, his works were criticized and his influence in various organizations became limited. Over the decade that followed, Kalecki’s books were widely read in opposition self-education circles.

In autumn 1967, Kalecki protested the antisemitic campaign that had been organized by the Communist authorities, and he gave up his various scholarly functions. After March 1968, he expressed his disagreement with official governmental policies (which included antisemitism and repression of academics, scholars, and writers) by, among other acts, resigning from his position at the Central School of Planning and Statistics and demonstratively refusing to publish his works in Poland. He signed an appeal addressed to the prime minister in defense of students and against “antisemitic statements.” The authorities reacted by breaking up Kalecki’s scientific circle, criticizing and rejecting his theories, and dismissing him from scientific bodies.

Suggested Reading

Joan Robinson, “Michal Kalecki: A Neglected Prophet,” New York Review of Books 23.1 (March 1976); Zdzisław Sadowski and Adam Szeworski, Kalecki’s Economics Today (New York, 2004); Malcolm C. Sawyer, ed., The Legacy of Michal Kalecki (Northampton, Mass., 1999).



Translated from Polish by Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov