Leo Rogin

Leo Rogin

Leo Rogin (1893, Mohilev, Russia - 1947, Berkeley, CA, USA) was an American economist, economic historian and historian of economic thought.

Life and work

He came to the United States with his parents in 1902 from Russia, where his father had been manager of a large estate. Quite naturally young Leo Rogin's early interests were devoted to agricultural subjects. He received the B.S. degree in Agriculture from Rutgers College in 1916 and the Ph.D. degree in Economics from Columbia University in 1931. He began teaching as Instructor in Economics and Sociology at Grinnell College in 1921. The following year he became Associate Professor of Economics and Sociology at North Carolina College for Women. In 1926 he was Assistant Professor of Economics at Lawrence College, Wisconsin. He came to the University of California, Berkeley in 1927, where he was Lecturer (1927-1938), Associate Professor (1938-1946), and Professor (1946-1947).

Interspersed with his teaching were other professional assignments. In 1925-1926 he served as Economist on the staff of the Guarantee Trust Company. In 1934-1935 he was Chief of Staff of the Labor Advisory Board of the National Recovery Administration. In 1937-1938 he was Director of an extensive Survey of Destitution in Wyoming.

An understanding of the contribution of Leo Rogin must begin with the realization that he held that neither theory nor practice in the social sciences could be adequately analyzed or creatively expanded or refined outside of a frame of reference which was coextensive with the dual role of citizen and scholar. From this it followed that the differentia specifica which separates the social sciences from the natural sciences inheres in the structure, character, and functioning of social relations as such; that there is no escape from the acceptance of the historicity of social science theory, however formal and abstract; and that no aspect of social sciences--economics, political science, sociology--can be looked upon as more than a specific angle of an approach to an examination of the social sciences as a whole.

It is no accident, accordingly, that Leo Rogin felt, as an economist, that this view required that he become unusually well versed in philosophy and history. That this implied a stronger, rather than a weaker, imperative for rigor in his thinking processes is indicated by his systematic and long drawn-out self-education in logic and mathematics. But this very same emphasis also led him to feel that since the significant reality of the social sciences was an ever-changing and perpetually fluid manifold of social relations, it was highly necessary to cultivate a sense for the vagaries of theory by active participation in the social life of his time. Thus his personal as well as his scholarly life represented a quite unusual wedding of theory and practice. He maintained an acute and vivid interest in people, events, and a whole range of current social problems while at the same time constantly pursuing a heavy schedule of detailed and exacting research. This research had just begun to yield its most important results at the time of his sudden death in the summer of 1947. A major treatise, tentatively titled "The Meaning and Validity of Economic Theory", representing some ten years of intensive work, would eventually be published posthumously in 1956. This study, dealing with the major figures in the evolution of economic thought from the time of the Physiocrats and the founding of the Classical School to John Maynard Keynes, was prefatory to two other projected works. One was to be a detailed study of Keynes, whom Rogin regarded as one of the great transitional figures of contemporary times. The other was to be a constructive examination of the theory of economic planning.

Thus his work was cut off at the very time when it bore promise of yielding a significant reëxamination of economic theory as a whole. His earlier critical writings reflected a very carefully outlined plan of work and were notable for their penetration and originality. Particularly noteworthy was a series of articles and reviews on the writings of Karl Marx and Werner Sombart. An earlier study, "The Introduction of Farm Machinery in its Relation to the Productivity of Labor in the Agriculture of the United States During the 19th Century", published by the University of California Press in 1931, reflects his intense interest in the practical side of economic investigation and forecasts his later concern over techniques and methodology. E. A. J. Johnson said of this study that, “It is at once a set of findings and a method... his methodological contributions are indispensable to economic historians.”

tudents and critics

Leo Rogin's significance for 20th century American economics was to a large extent due to the direct intellectual influence he had on his students, such as John Kenneth Galbraith and Douglass North. Rogin was a fairly young figure when Galbraith encountered him, only a decade or so older than most of his students, and at that time he was caught up in several challenges to conventional neoclassical thought. It was he who introduced Galbraith to Keynesian thought, albeit in its pre-General Theory outlines, as well as to the generally progressive thinking of other non-Marshallians. Douglass North remembers Rogin as one his most influential teachers during his graduate study in Berkeley (although his qualification of Rogin as a Marxist is not strictly correct).

Rogin's method of teaching history of economic thought from the perspective of the problems of his own time, and evaluating their merits on the basis of the answers that they provided for those problems, was strongly criticised by other historians of economics such as Mark Blaug [Interestingly, Blaug actually recommended Rogin's (1956) treatment of the Physiocrats and Böhm-Bawerk in the first edition (1962) of "Economic Theory in Retrospect", even though he emphatically rejected Rogin's general approach to the history of economics. This rejection remained, but the positive references on specific topics disappeared in his later editions.] and Terence W. Hutchison.

Major publications

* "The Introduction of Farm Machinery in its Relation to the Productivity of Labor in the Agriculture of the United States During the 19th Century", 1931.
* "Werner Sombart and the 'Natural Science Method' in Economics", "JPE", 1933.
* "American Economic Thought", "AER", 1933.
* "The New Deal: A Survey of the Literature", "QJE", 1935.
* "Davenport on the Economics of Alfred Marshall", "AER", 1936.
* "The Significance of Marxian Economics for Current Trends of Government Policy", "AER", 1938.
* "Werner Sombart and Transcendentalism", "AER", 1941.
* "Marx and Engels on Distribution in a Socialist Society", "AER", 1945.
* "The Meaning and Validity of Economic Theory: A Historical Approach", 1956.

econdary sources

* Blaug, Mark (1962, 1st ed.) "Economic Theory in Retrospect".
* Hutchison, Terence W. (1978) - "On Revolutions and Progress in Economic Knowledge".


External references

* [http://content.cdlib.org/xtf/view?docId=hb1m3nb0fr&doc.view=frames&chunk.id=div00010&toc.depth=1&toc.id= 1947, University of California: In Memoriam] .
* [http://www.johnkennethgalbraith.com/index.php?page=articles&display=8 Where Galbraith's Ideas Come From, Speech delivered by Richard Parker at The Galbraith International Symposium Paris, France, September 22-25, 2004]
* [http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economics/laureates/1993/north-autobio.html Douglass C. North's Autobiography on Nobelprize.org]

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