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CES Dissertation Workshop

Opening the Caskets: Mathematical Economics in Fascist Austria


March 5, 2021
12:00pm - 1:15pm
Virtual/RSVP Required Directions
March 5, 2021
12:00pm - 1:15pm
Virtual/RSVP Required Directions

The Dissertation Workshop is a graduate educational seminar open only to graduate students and their advisors. CES invites graduates students, who are interested in attending this workshop or in presenting their research, to contact CES Dissertation Workshop Coordinators Clare Bradford Anderson and Armando Miano. All workshops will be held virtually during the 2020-2021 academic year. Zoom links for the workshop will be distributed a day in advance to registered participants.

About

Max Ehrenfreund will present a chapter from his dissertation on the socialist calculation debate and its ramifications in mathematical economics during and after the Second World War.

Before Oskar Morgenstern emigrated to Princeton University and became famous as one of the inventors of game theory, he had a promising career in Vienna as a consultant and adviser to the Austrofascist regime of Kurt Schuschnigg.

Max Ehrenfreund uses previously unexamined evidence from Morgenstern's diaries to describe his relationship with Schuschnigg's government. These records pose difficult questions about mathematics, and about the historical memory of fascism in Austria. Some historians have asserted that mathematics in interwar Europe was objective and politically neutral. Others have associated mathematics with the political Left. For Morgenstern, by contrast, mathematics encoded neither a socialist ideology nor an apolitical quietism. Rather, he used formal and quantitative methods to justify the existence of Schuschnigg's regime and to assist in its practical administration.

The interpretation of Morgenstern's scientific career thus depends in part on whether Schuschnigg is understood as a valiant opponent of Adolf Hitler, who sought to maintain Austria's independence from Germany, or as an authoritarian who facilitated Nazi expansion.

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