Max Ehrenfreund

Max Ehrenfreund

Ehrenfreund Photo

Research Interests: Economic history, modern Central Europe, planning, coordination and control, epistemology.

Max Ehrenfreund is a Ph.D. candidate in history of science. His research concerns how human beings use available knowledge and information to make economic decisions.

In the early 20th century, economic decision-making was the subject of intense debate among economists, particularly in Austria and Germany. This controversy, known today as the “socialist calculation debate,” is the subject of Ehrenfreund’s dissertation. In the course of the debate, knowledge became a basic category of modern economic discourse. As economists discussed the advantages and disadvantages of capitalist and socialist economies, they came to agree that the critical issue was whether one economic system or the other could produce certain forms of knowledge and information. Economics today remains preoccupied with the problem of knowledge, betraying the enduring influence of this 20th-century debate. The controversy transformed both routine and fundamental political questions into questions of epistemology.

The dissertation’s first chapter describes accounting and calculation as social practices in imperial Germany and Austria prior to the First World War. The second chapter examines Max Weber’s relationship with his student Otto Neurath and their respective theories of calculation at the time of the Bavarian Soviet Republic. A third chapter examines Ludwig von Mises’s critique of socialism, showing how his understanding of calculation changed in the course of his career. The fourth chapter is about Joseph Schumpeter, his student Cläre Tisch, and the origins of neoclassical market socialism. Through an analysis of Michael Polanyi’s life and work, the last chapter shows how the debate about calculation in an economic context informed postwar philosophy of science.

Ehrenfreund’s dissertation is provisionally entitled “Economic Calculation and the Problem of Knowledge: The Debate in Central Europe."


“Reading Socialism: Reconstructing a Misesian Argument.” 49th Annual Meeting of the History of Economics Society, University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis, June 18, 2022.

“Socialist Calculation in a Society of Calculators: Accounting in Imperial Germany and Austria.” 48th Annual Meeting of the History of Economics Society, University of Utrecht, the Netherlands (virtual conference), December 10, 2021.

Previous Degrees:
BA., English, Yale University, 2012

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