The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Bettelheim, Charles (Born 1913)

  • Peter Nolan
Reference work entry


Bettelheim has been a life-long Marxist for whom the theory and practice of the transition to socialism has been the central object of analysis. He has written influential theoretical works (e.g. Economic Calculation and Forms of Property, The Transition to Socialist Economy, Studies in the Theory of Planning), as well as studies of the political economy of different countries. The most important of these are on India (1968) – he was a consultant to the Indian government during the development of its planning system in the 1950s; on China (1974) he has visited China several times; and on the USSR (1946, 1976, 1978) – he reads Russian and has researched on the Soviet Union since the 1930s. He was influenced deeply by the Chinese cultural revolution, which shed new light on his view of the ‘transition to socialism’. He considered that China had broken decisively (and correctly) from the Soviet Union’s ‘state capitalist’ path. In the USSR, argued Bettelheim (following Mao), primacy was given to the ‘development of the productive forces’ at the expense of attempting to transform the system of unequal ‘production relations’, which formed the ‘objective basis for the existence of classes’. His account of the Maoist attempt to break down workplace inequalities of power, income and status struck a powerful chord among many Western socialists at a time when Stalinism was being increasingly questioned, when confidence was high in the possibility of moving rapidly towards socialism, and before the mainstream of Western socialism had swung towards Euro-Communism.

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Nolan
    • 1
  1. 1.