János Mátyás Kovács



János Mátyás Kovács graduated at the Karl Marx University of Economics, Budapest in 1973, defended his doctoral dissertation (dr. oec) at the same university in 1975, and became a research fellow at the Institute of Economics, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest. In 1987, he moved to Vienna, and worked as a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) between 1991 and 2018 while remaining an external research fellow of the Institute of Economics until 2014. Since 2009, he has taught history of economic thought at the Department of Economics, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. Kovács joined RECET (Research Center for the History of Transformations) at the Institute of East-European History, University of Vienna in 2019. He is senior member of RECET, permanent fellow emeritus of IWM, and professor of economic history at the Eötvös Loránd University. He served as an editor of Transit (Vienna) and 2000 (Budapest) until 2017.

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

Current Research Program:

  • Between Bukharin and Balcerowicz: A Comparative History of Economic Thought under Communismwww.triple-b-project.net
    • Current research project within the program: Economic Collectivism: Old and New. Lessons from the Communist and Post-Communist Experience

Selected Recent Publications:

(ed) Brave New Hungary. Mapping the “System of National Cooperation” (co-editor Balazs Trencsenyi), Rowman and Littlefield, Lexington Books, 2019

“Orban’s Right Hand Thinks. On the Sources of György Matolcsy’s Economic Vision.“ In: J.M. Kovacs and Balazs Trencsenyi (eds), Brave New Hungary …, 2019

(ed) Populating No Man’s Land. Economic Concepts of Ownership Under Communism, Rowman and Littlefield, Lexington Books, 2018

“From Two to One and Only? Theorizing ownership in communist Hungary.“ In: J.M. Kovacs (ed), Populating No Man’s Land …, 2018

Heading the Gloom. How I Did Not Become a Reformer in the Hungary of 1968 [in Hungarian] 2000, 2018/6

Vom Zweifel zur Scham. Sieben falsche Vorhersagen über das postkommunistische Ungarn Transit, 2017/50

Everything I always wanted to know about mathematical economics (but was afraid to ask) [in Hungarian], 2016

“Fabricating a Perpetuum Mobile: Economic Thought under Communism Revisited”
in: IWMpost 116/2015.

“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) I, II“ [in Hungarian], in: 2000, May/June 2013.

(ed) 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.

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


Brave New Hungary. Mapping the “System of National Cooperation”

Brave New Hungaryfocuses on the rise of a “brave new” anti-liberal regime led by Viktor Orbán who made a decisive contribution to the transformation of a poorly managed liberal democracy to a well-organized authoritarian rule bordering on autocracy during the past decade. Emerging capitalism in post-1989 Hungary that once took pride in winning the Eastern …
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Populating No Man’s Land: Economic Concepts of Ownership under Communism

This edited volume opening the new series Revisiting Communism: Collectivist Economic Thought in Historical Perspective focuses on the concepts of ownership, the cornerstone of political economy in Soviet-type societies. The authors’ main objective is to contribute to the still unwritten chapter on collectivism in the history books of modern economic thought. They trace the lengthy …
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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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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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