Jan Drewnowski (1908-2000): An Economist in Public Service
 
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Publish date: 2006-03-31
 
Gospodarka Narodowa 2006;206(3):71–109
ABSTRACT
The article is dedicated to Jan Drewnowski, a Polish economist who was born in Vilnius in 1908 and died in London in 2000. Drewnowski studied at the Warsaw School of Economics (SGH) from 1926. The starting point for his research career was his two-year scholarship at the London School of Economics in 1993-1935. After returning to Warsaw, Drewnowski took a job at SGH. In 1938, he earned a postdoctoral degree. After World War II, which he spent in German captivity, Drewnowski returned to communist Poland. He became a professor at SGH and assumed a high post at the Central Planning Office (CUP). He was linked with the Polish Socialist Party at the time. After the “CUP debate” in 1948 and the nationalization of SGH in 1949, Drewnowski was progressively sidelined. Eventually, he lost his CUP job and the possibility of teaching at SGH. The breakthrough came in 1956 when Drewnowski regained his teaching rights, joined the Economic Council and the Planning Commission and was allowed to travel abroad. His many foreign trips included a yearlong scholarship in the United States. In the late 1950s, the situation in Poland began to deteriorate again. As a result, Drewnowski accepted a job offer abroad. In 1961-1964 he worked at the University of Ghana in Legon and in 1964-1969 he was employed in Geneva at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD). Problems with extending his passport led to a situation in which Drewnowski finally decided to choose political emigration in 1969. He first lived in the Hague working at the Institute of Social Sciences, and then moved to London in 1979 where was linked with the Polish University-in-Exile. After 1989 he visited Poland several times. In 1994 he received an honorary doctorate from SGH. As an economist, Drewnowski represented the tradition of the “Lausanne school.” In the initial period, he was primarily involved in the theory of economics, and his main objective was to make it more realistic. He specifically attempted to do so in reference to the theory of demand, enterprise, central planning and socialist economy. In the following period, from 1964 (when he was employed at UNRISD), he became concerned with social statistics, specifically the methods and application of what were called social indicators. At the time, Drewnowski was widely seen as the creator of the “Geneva method” for examining the standard of living and prosperity. In the last years of his life, Drewnowski took an interest in social prosperity issues. During his political emigration starting in 1970 Drewnowski also worked as a political columnist and expert on Soviet affairs. In his articles, he developed concepts of the “autonomous distribution of Soviet-type systems” and “degradation of the economic fabric” as the main factor behind the decline of economic systems. After 1989 he wrote extensively about the transition in former East Bloc countries, chiefly Poland.
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ISSN:0867-0005