János Mátyás Kovács



János Mátyás Kovács (1950, Budapest) graduated at the Karl Marx University of Economics, Budapest in 1973. He defended his doctoral dissertation (dr. oec) on “The Market Economy of the NEP” at the same university in 1975. In 1973, he became a research fellow at the Institute of Economics, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest. Since 1984, he has taught history of economic thought as well as political economy of communism and the post-communist transformation at various departments of Eötvös Loránd University and Karl Marx University of Economics (today: Corvinus University) in Budapest. In 1987, Kovacs moved to Vienna, and has worked as a Permanent Fellow at the IWM since 1991, while remaining an external research fellow of the Institute of Economics in Budapest until 2014. Since 2009, he has taught history of economic thought at the Department of Economics, Eötvös Loránd University again. He serves as an editor of Transit (Vienna) and 2000 (Budapest).

Fields of Research:

  • History of Economic Thought in Eastern Europe
  • History of Communist Economies
  • Political Economy of New Capitalism in Eastern Europe
  • Economic Cultures after Communism
  • Institutional Economics


Former Projects:

Selected Publications:

“Fabricating a Perpetuum Mobile: Economic Thought under Communism Revisited”
in: IWMpost 116.

“Travelling Back in Time? Job Quality in Europe As Seen from Below”, in: Miroslav Beblavy et al (eds.): The Future of Labour in Europe, Brussels: CEPS, 2014 (see also IWMpost112).

“Tradition, Nachamung, Erfindung. Neue Kapitalismen in Osteuropa“, in: Transit 43, 2013.

“Shooting Sparrows with a Cannon? On the History of Eastern European Economic Thought (1917-1989)“ [in Hungarian],  in: 2000, May/June 2013.

Capitalism from Outside? Economic Cultures in Eastern Europe After 1989 (co-edited with Violetta Zentai), Budapest / New York: CEU Press, 2012.

“Beyond Basic Instinct? On the Reception of New Institutional Economics in Eastern Europe”, in: J.M. Kovacs and Violetta Zentai (eds), Capitalism from Outside? Economic Cultures in Eastern Europe after 1989, Budapest / New York: CEU Press, 2012.

“Importing Spiritual Capital. East-West Encounters and Capitalist Cultures in Eastern Europe after 1989”, in: Peter Berger and Gordon Redding (eds.): The Hidden Form of Capital, London: Anthem Press, 2010.

[ Complete List of Publications ]


Former affiliations at the IWM:
1987-90, Visiting Fellow


Economic Ideas and Institutions in Eastern Europe

This research project aims at understanding institutional and cultural change in Eastern Europe in conjunction with recent developments on the global marketplace of ideas.
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Heft 50: Ein Zeitalter wird besichtigt. 1989 revisited

Die erste Ausgabe von Transit erschien kurz nach 1989, in einem historischen Moment, der das Ende des Kalten Krieges markierte, Europa wiedervereinigte und für seinen östlichen Teil eine Wende zu Demokratie und Marktwirtschaft versprach. Seitdem hat Transit die Transformationsprozesse, die ganz Europa erfassten, kritisch begleitet. Die neue Weltordnung, die sich mit der Wende herausbildete, scheint sich heute aufzulösen – eine Epoche geht zu Ende. Transit, ein Kind und Spiegel dieser Epoche, hat seine langjährigen AutorInnen anlässlich des fünfzigsten (und letzten) Heftes eingeladen zurückzublicken: Was waren ihre Visionen, Hoffnungen und Zweifel? Was ist falsch gelaufen? Und: Was tun?
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Between Bukharin and Balcerowicz:
A Comparative History of Economic Thought under Communism

In April 2014, the IWM launched a long-term comparative research project on the history of economic ideas in nine communist countries: Bulgaria, China, Czechoslovakia, GDR, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.
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From September 2012 to January 2014 the IWM participated in the EU FP7-funded project Neujobs. Creating and Adapting Jobs in Europe in the Context of the Socio-Ecological Transition. IWM Permanent Fellow János Mátyás Kovács directed the project’s Work Package 2, entitled “Good Jobs” in a “Good Economy”.
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Capitalism from Outside?

Kovacs, Zentai: Capitalism from Outside?
Economic Cultures in Eastern Europe after 1989 Does capitalism emerging in Eastern Europe need as solid ethnic or spiritual foundations as some other “Great Transformations” in the past? Apparently, one can become an actor of the new capitalist game without belonging to the German, Jewish, or, to take a timely example, Chinese minority. Nor does …
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Frivolous cohabitation.
Preparing the soil for a Jobbik takeover?

János Mátyás Kovács, a Hungarian economist, talks to Karolina Wigura about deep sources of Jobbik’s popularity and longue durée consequences of Victor Orban’s legal carpet bombing.
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CAPITO – Understanding Nascent Capitalism in Eastern Europe

CAPITO aimed at comparing the emerging capitalist regimes in six countries of Eastern Europe. The project applied a simple scheme of “tradition-emulation-invention” to identify the origins of institutional change in the economies of the region, and define the real types of nascent capitalism in an East-East and an East-West comparison. The research period started in April 2010 and ended in December 2011. The project was supported by a grant of the Jubiläumsfonds of the Austrian National Bank.
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DIOSCURI: Eastern Enlargement – Western Enlargement

Invoking the mythological figures Castor and Pollux, DIOSCURI focused on current encounters in Europe to predict the ways of cohabitation between the twin economic cultures of the "East" and the "West".
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