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The intellectual legacy of Jaroslav Vanek: how the twain met

John Bonin (Economics, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, USA)

Journal of Participation and Employee Ownership

ISSN: 2514-7641

Article publication date: 6 October 2020



This essay is a tribute to Jaroslav Vanek who spent 32 years at Cornell University where he founded the Program on Participation and Labor-Managed Systems (PPLMS) in 1970, which became the home for economic research on these issues in the US. It is a brief intellectual history of a multi-dimensional scholar.


Vanek's seminal work in the American Economic Review in 1969 marked the culmination of a decade of work on labor management inspired by his brother Jan's work on Yugoslavia, considered then to be a worker-managed economic system. In two rapidly following tomes, Vanek laid out the landscape for the development of a new subfield in economics by providing precursors to many of the results to follow. In that previous decade, Vanek produced papers in traditional economic theory, e.g. international trade and economic growth.


Vanek's mindset persists in the interplay between the emerging theory of labor-managed firms and traditional economic literature that takes seriously the role of organizational form. This essay develops that cross-pollination and seeks to identify the remaining questions and issues for future work that the economics profession owes to Jaroslav Vanek.


Connection of strands of literature in the economic theory with the literature on labor-managed firms and worker-managed economies tracing the evolution of the latter to the work of Jaroslav Vanek.



The author thanks Derek Jones and Takao Kato for inviting him to participate in this project. The author has benefited greatly from helpful comments and suggestions along the way from Derek. The author thanks the referee for calling to his attention a neglected issue in an earlier draft and providing the relevant citations. The author thanks Wesleyan University for the sabbatical funding that allowed him time to complete this essay. The author is solely responsible for its content.


Bonin, J. (2020), "The intellectual legacy of Jaroslav Vanek: how the twain met", Journal of Participation and Employee Ownership, Vol. 3 No. 2/3, pp. 107-122.



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