Rebecca E. Karl is Associate Professor of History at New York University. She is the author of
The Economic as Transhistory: Temporality, the Market, and the Austrian School
This essay introduces a Chinese critique of the Austrian School of economics through a consideration of 1930s economist Wang Yanan’s philosophical essays on the economic concepts and social scientific norms of his day. The return of marginal utility and market fundamentalism through the rediscovery in 1990s China and the world of Friedrich Hayek is counterposed to this original 1930s moment. Intended as a discovery of a long-lost non-Communist Marxist voice in the Chinese sphere as well as an interrogation of the culturalist propensities of Austrian economics more generally, this essay retrieves and critiques the ways in which economics and culture were intertwined at the origin of the systematic rewritings of Chinese history as part of a world-historical project. These joined historiographical explorations permit an extended discussion of the relationship among temporality, culturalism, and transhistorical concepts in the pursuit of historical inquiry.