Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize


Honorable Mention

The Value of Labor: The Science of Commodification in Hungary, 1920–1956

Honorable Mention: Martha Lampland
Title: The Value of Labor: The Science of Commodification in Hungary, 1920–1956 (University of Chicago Press)

The Value of Labor provides a sophisticated interdisciplinary analysis of how scientific debates about measuring and evaluating labor evolved in Hungary between 1920 and 1956. Narrated in chronological fashion, Lampland’s analysis undercuts the typical periodization of this period, suggesting that the communist takeover was not a fundamental break in how work came to be evaluated and rewarded. Lampland identifies and analyzes significant continuities in how economists in various state institutions defined the contribution of the workforce, suggesting that ideological shifts were less important for shaping some economic policies in 20th-century Hungary than common concerns with modernization, efficiency, and overall economic growth. Lampland’s micro-level examination of how workplace rationalization actually takes place sheds new light on both the constraints faced by communist modernizers and the problems inherent in assigning value to labor.

Winner: Benjamin Peters