Michał Kalecki bigraphy, stories - Polish economist

Michał Kalecki : biography

June 22, 1899 - April 18, 1970

Michał Kalecki ( June 22, 1899 – April 18, 1970) was a Polish economist who specialized in macroeconomics of a broadly-defined Keynesian sort. Over the course of his life, Kalecki worked at the London School of Economics, University of Cambridge, University of Oxford and Warsaw School of Economics as well as an economic advisor to governments of Cuba, Israel, Mexico and India.

Kalecki has been called "one of the most distinguished economists of the 20th century." It is often claimed that he developed many of the same ideas as Keynes, before Keynes; however, since he published in Polish, he remains much less known to the English-speaking world. He offered a synthesis that integrated Marxist class analysis and the then-new literature on oligopoly theory, and his work had a significant influence on both Neo-Marxian (Monopoly Capital) and Post Keynesian schools of economic thought. He was also one of the first macroeconomists to apply mathematical models and statistical data to economic questions.


Early years: 1899–1932

Michal Kalecki was born in Łódź, Poland on June 22, 1899. Information about his early years of life is very sparse, part of it being lost during the Nazi occupation. In 1917 Kalecki finished a Bachelor's degree, in order to join later the University of Warsaw, where he began civil engineering. He was a very clever student, and in this period he formalized a generalization of Pascal's theorem, concerning a hexagon drawn within a second degree curve. Kalecki generalized this for a polygon of 2n sides.

However, after his father had lost a small textile workshop, and though he obtained a job as an accountant, the young Kalecki had to search for another job in order to earn some money. During his first year in Warsaw he continued working sporadic jobs. After finishing his first year of engineering, he had to abandon his studies and from 1918 to 1921 he was in military service. Upon leaving the military he joined Gdańsk Polytechnic, staying there until 1924. Kalecki was then 25 years old.

During these years he first approached economics, although informally. He read mostly "unorthodox" works, particularly those of Mikhail Tugan-Baranovsky and Rosa Luxemburg. Years later, this early influence of these two economists would be felt in some of his own writings related to the potential growth of a capitalist system.

In 1924 Kalecki was about to finish his studies when his father lost his job again. This forced him to leave the university again and this time permanently, because he needed to find a better paid job. His first job (which was also economic in nature) was to collect data on companies which asked for credit. In this same period he tried unsuccessfully to start a newspaper and then was forced to write articles for two economic newspapers, the Polska gospodarcza and Przeglad gospodarczy. It was probably in writing these articles that he began to acquire skills in obtaining and analyzing empirical information which was later included in his writings.

After five years and many articles he applied in 1929 for work at the Research Institute of Business Cycle and Prices (RIBCP). The experience he had acquired in the use of statistics got him the job. On June 18, 1930, he married Ada Szternfeld. In RIBCP he met Ludwig Landau, whose knowledge of statistics influenced the way that years later Kalecki presented the statistical part of his works. As a result his first works had a practical character particularly in establishing relationships between macro-magnitudes. In fact the first article that anticipated many subsequent contributions was published in 1932 in a magazine (which disappeared the same year) called Przeglad socjalistyczny (Socialist Review), under the pseudonym of Henryk Braun. The article dealt with the subject of the impact of wage cuts during an economic downturn. It was the first step towards the contributions he would make the following year.

The revolution of Kalecki and Keynes: 1933–1939

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