Vladimir Shkredov was born in a small town in Saratov region. At the start of World War Two, the family relocated to Frunze (now Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyz republic). In 1943-44, Shkredov was a battery commander as part of the Wojsko Polskie. He was decommissioned after receiving a serious wound, and was later awarded the Polish ‘Silver Cross’ for his military merits.
After the war, Shkredov studied at the All-Union Correspondence Institute of Law while working as a tax inspector in rural areas of the Kyrgyz republic. He was responsible for collecting land and other related taxes. This experience led to his interest in the role of legal norms and property forms in economic processes.
In 1951, Shkredov began his academic career at Kyrgyz State University. In 1960, he was invited to change to Moscow State Lomonosov University, where he taught political economy at the Department of Economics until 1978. He worked his way up from an assistant professor to a full professor. In 1978, he was forced to leave the Lomonosov university and to move over to the Academy of National Economy (later renamed the Russian Academy of National Economy and State Service) where he worked until his death in 1996.
Portrait, in the 1970s
Main Works and Ideas
Having started with the study of law in the 1950s, Shkredov was also involved in investigating the nature of economic processes in the Soviet Union. His focus was on the relationship of economics and law. In the USSR, this sort of approach had to be based on Marx’s Capital and his investigation of the dialectics of the relations of production and its juridical forms (objectivized in property rights). In 1968, Shkredov wrote his habilitation thesis called ‘The Principle of Approaching the Relations of Production from the Point of View of their Juridical Form of Expression’. The ideas of this thesis were previously presented in a series of publications, particularly the monograph Socialist Land Property (1967), where Shkredov defended the realist view of land property’s role in the formation of prices of agricultural production under socialism and insisted on the objective existence of the differential land rent which must be accepted in the process of planning in order to avoid shortages and price distortions. While stressing the relative independence of the realm of law, Shkredov, like Marx, argued that the creative role of law in an economy is always restricted by the level of productive forces. The dialectics of the economic relations and their legal form was explored in another monograph called Economy and Law (1967).
In these texts, Shkredov not only laid the foundation of the Marxist institutionalism in the Soviet economic literature, but also delivered a critique of the Stalinist version of political economy, which dominated the Soviet economics from the 1930s to the 1960s. This assumed of the leading role of the dictatorship of proletariat in the socialist system of economic relations. The last example of this approach was found in the textbook on political economy designed for universities and edited by Konstantin Ostrovityanov et al. (1954).
Already at that time, Shkredov identified a fundamental distortion of Marx’s ideas regarding the dialectics of the economy and the historical character of its forms in the Soviet literature on political economy and the Soviet philosophical theory of cognition. At the end of the 1960s, Shkredov began to study Marx’s writings and philosophical literature on Marx’s method of investigation and systematic exposition of his theory. As a result, he became an expert on Hegel’s logic. In some respects, his view of the similarities and differences between the Marx’s logic of Capital and Hegel’s Logic was similar to the concept developed by the Soviet philosopher Victor Vazyulin in his The Logic of Marx’s ‘Capital’ (1968) and was close to Isaak Ilyich Rubin’s interpretation of Marx’s method in Capital and the role of the value-form analysis.
In his next and most well-known book – The Method of Investigation of Property in Marx’s ‘Capital’ (1973) – Shkredov expanded on this theme. Here, he demonstrated that private property appears in Marx’s theoretical system first as an actual precondition of the capitalist mode of production and then as a result of dialectical transformation as this mode’s final outcome. Moreover, Shkredov criticised the dominant Soviet notion (based on Engels’ and Lenin’s understanding of Capital) of the coincidence of the logical order of appearance of certain categories in Capital and the historical order of the development of the “simple production of commodities” into the “capitalist production of commodities.” Since this Soviet Marxist theory was based on some ambiguous passages of the standard editions of Capital, especially on the version of the value-form in the first chapter in the Second Edition and later editions, Shkredov published the article ‘The Study of the Value-Form in the First Edition of Marx’s Capital’ (1976), where he showed – before Hans-Georg Backhaus’s paper (1978) and Gerhard Goehler’s book (1980) – that, between the first and the following editions of the first volume of Capital, Marx revised the initial strictly dialectical flow of arguments and added some confusing examples and formulations in order to provide a “more popular” exposition of his theory of value.
The notion of “simple value production” as the subject matter of the first chapter of the first volume of Capital and the notion of a “unity of the historical and the logical” in Marx’s work were, at the time, based on Engels’ and Lenin’s canonical interpretations of Marx’s method of the economic analysis. Additionally, they were core principles of the large textbook on political economy prepared by a group of authors from the Lomonosov university under the editorship of Professor Nikolay Zagolov (three editions – 1960, 1970 and 1973-74). Shkredov initially belonged to the core group of contributors. His critique of simplified reception of the logic and content of Capital was inevitably met with strong objections from the dogmatic majority of leading Soviet economists and philosophers. His views were discussed during a “Seminar on Methodology” held by the Chair of Political Economy in 1975-76. During this discussion, Shkredov and a few of his supporters were accused of “Rubin-style revisionism” and “anti-Marxism.”
Nevertheless, even after he was pushed out of the university and became a professor at the Academy of National Economy, Shkredov made some new contributions to the discussion on Marx’s theoretical method. In 1980s, he collaborated with the group of scholars in the Marx and Engels section of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism. Among those scholars were some of his former students, who launched a seminar on open questions regarding Marx’s economic legacy and published a series of monographs dedicated to different stages of Marx’s work on Capital (1983, 1987). Here, especially in his two chapters in the monograph on the Grundrisse (1987) Shkredov explored the role of Marx’s early economic writings and specifically the Grundrisse in the formation of the theoretical system of Capital. Shkredov widened his understanding of Capital and introduced the notions of “dialectical political economy” and Marx’s “concrete historicism”. According to Shkredov, Marx’s analysis concerned the already mature capitalist mode of production, i.e., the system that itself shaped the conditions for disclosure of its internal moments and thus also enabled the understanding of the specific premises of its developed form, but not vice versa. Moreover, Marx’s dialectical investigation of the capitalist economy became possible only because during his time the capitalist mode of production already subsumed and transformed the existing mode of production in accordance with the immanent logic of the surplus-value production. The logic of Capital reflected the internal logic of the mature capitalist mode of production starting with the abstract forms (commodity, money) and developing into an investigation of more concrete and more specific forms.
The descriptions of the abstract forms such as the commodity and money are not very detailed, therefore it might look as if Marx starts with the historically oldest primitive forms of economic relations, but the commodity and money came into their own and became properties of capital only within the capitalist economic system. Shkredov called this sort of theoretical approach to a developing social system, perceived from an objective point of view, “concrete historicism”. Moreover, he stressed that, before the capitalist mode of production came to its mature form, neither Ricardo nor the Ricardians were able to present a complex and homogeneous vision of the economy in its totality. Therefore, the “political economy of the socialist mode of production” could be developed only when (and if) this mode of production were to mature, i.e. on the basis of a corresponding type of productive forces.
At that time, as Shkredov was becoming more and more a “Marxologist”, he became acquainted with the works of some other non-conformist Soviet and Eastern German scholars who investigated the history of Marx’s economic theory of Marx. Georgy Bagaturiya and Vitaly Vygodsky delivered the first comprehensive study of the formation of Marx’s economic theory and argued that “mature” Marxist economic theory began only after the Grundrisse, where Marx first clearly distinguished between labour and labour-power, and thus shaped the fundamentals of the surplus-value theory. Others were Albert Kogan, who wrote on the so-called six-book plan by Marx, which was never abandoned by him (where Capital forms only the first part of the first book) and Igor Boldyrev, who wrote about the theoretical role of the expression “capital in its totality”.
Shkredov and his ideas were either ignored, or implicitly criticised in mainstream economic theory in the late USSR as a form of non-conventional thinking contrasted with scholastic exercises of the Soviet scholars of economics.
As the systemic changes in the former USSR, and especially in Russia, were implemented in accordance with SLIP model (stabilization – liberalization – institutional building – privatisation of state owned enterprises, SOEs) by the World Bank and other international financial institutions, Shkredov analysed the strategy of economic transition and criticised the model of a quick voucher privatisation in Russia in his last monograph Money, Entrepreneurship, State (published posthumously in 1999 by his former students). There, he argued that a quick change of established rules and property rights would hardly be adequately supported by the beliefs, norms, and economic behaviour of the majority of the population, hence it would lead not to the emergence of a large number of efficient proprietors, but to a redistribution of the national wealth among a few interest groups. Shkredov called for a combination of the state and the private sector for a certain period of time, until the legal environment and the general norms became more entrepreneurship-friendly.
Contributions to the scholarship of his time
In the 1970s, Shkredov revived the discussions on Marx’s economic theory and its methodology that had previously taken place in the 1920s and 1930s, but, unlike Isaak Ilyich Rubin, he focused not purely on the reception of Marx, but on the possibility of applying Marxian methodology to the understanding of the real contemporary economy, law, and society.
Shkredov’s legacy is, in many respects, close to the ideas of the critical reconstruction of Marx’s Capital in the Western neo-Marxist literature of the 1960s and 1970s, particularly to the ideas of some West German projects and groups of that time. However, in some senses, his work is innovative, since he developed his notion of the reception of Marx’s economic theory and its methodology before Western neo-Marxists and did so while surrounded by the followers of the dogmatic Marxist-Leninist take on Marx’s economic theory. Unlike some neo-Marxists, Shkredov never tried to reduce Marx’s method to Hegel’s logic, and Marx’s labour theory of value to Ricardian (or Sraffian) ideas. Moreover, in the new socio-economic circumstances of the 1990s, Shkredov demonstrated the advantages of Marx’s approach to an institutional approach to the relationship between economy and other realms of society.
Shkredov was a beloved teacher of many generations of students during his time at Moscow State Lomonosov University. Some of his students became well known scientists, entrepreneurs, or managers. Even two decades after his death, seminars on Shkredov’s ideas were organized at the Lomonosov University and some of his public speeches were published by his followers. One of his most known former students is Dr. Alexander A. Khandruev, who worked on the application of the Marxian theory of money to the conditions of the late twentieth century (1983), and who was, from 1992 to 1998, a deputy chairman and later first deputy chairman of the Central Bank of Russian Federation. Another known former student is Dr. Rolf Hecker who is one of the co-editors of MEGA and an internationally recognised historian of Marxian economic thought.
Economy and Law (On the Principles of the Investigation of Production Relations in Connection with the Legal Form of their Expression) [Ekonomika i pravo (O principakh issledovaniya proizvodstvennykh otnosheniy v svyazi s juridicheskoy formoy ikh vyrazheniya], Мoscow, Ekonomika, 1967.
Socialist Land Property [Socialisticheskaya zemelnaya sobstvennost], Moscow: Moscow State University, 1967.
The Method of Investigation of Property in Marx’s ‘Capital’ [Metod issledovaniya sobstvennosti v ‘Kapitale’ К. Marxa], Мoscow: Moscow State University, 1973.
Money, Entrepreneurship, State [Dengi, predprinimatelstvo, gosudarstvo], Мoscow, TEIS, 1999.
Selected book chapters and papers
(1975) ‘Commodity and Commodity Circulation as the Premises of the Analysis of the Process of Production of Capital’ [Tovar i tovarnoe obrashenie kak predposylki analiza processa proizvodstva kapitala], Ekonomicheskue nauki, No. 6, pp. 18-32.
(1976) ‘Investigation of the Value-Form in the First Edition of Karl Marx’s Capital’, [Issledovaniye formy stoimosti v pervom izdanii “Kapitala” K. Marxa], Vestnik Moskovskogo universiteta. Seriya “Philosophia”, No. 6, pp.15-26.
(1983) ‘The analysis of the Value-Form in the First Volume of Capital’ [Analiz formy stoimosti v I tome ‘Kapitala’], In: Vygodsky V.S., Malysh A.I., Mchedlov M.P., Miskevich L.R., Chepurenko A.Y. (eds.) Essays on History of Marx’s ‘Capital’ [Ocherki po istorii “Kapitala” K. Marxa], Moscow: Politizdat, 1983, pp. 249-310.
(1988) Chapter 9: ‘The Results of Marx’s Economic Studies in 1850s – “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. First Part.” (1859)’ [Itog ekonomicjeskikg zanyatiy Marxa v 50-e gody – “K kritike politicheskoy ekonomii. Pevy vypusk” (1859 g.]; Chapter 10: ‘The Transformation of Political Economy into a Dialectical Science [Prevrashenie politicheskoy ekonomii v dialekticheskuyu nauku], In: Vygodsky V.S., Miskevich L.R., Mchedlov M.P., Ternovsky M.V., Chepurenko A.Y. (eds.) (1987) The First Draft of Marx’s ‘Capital’ (Marx’s Economic Manuscripts of 1857-1859) [Pervonachalny variant “Capitala” (Ekonomicheskie rukopisi Marxa 1857-1859 godov], Moscow: Politizdat, 1987, pp. 201-244.
(1985) ‘On the System of Argumentation in Capital’ [O sisteme dokazatelstva v "Kapitale"], Ekonomika i matematicheskie metody, Vol. 21(l), pp. 20-38.
Alexander Y. Chepurenko
Backhaus H.-G. (1978), ‘Materialien zur Rekonstruktion der Marxschen Werttheorie 3’, in: Gesellschaft. Beiträge zur Marxschen Theorie 11, Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, pp. 16–117.
Bagaturiya G.A., Vygodsky V.S. (1976), Economic Legacy of Karl Marx (History, Content, Methodology) [Ekonomicheskoe nasledie Karla Marxa (istoriya, soderzhanie, metodologiya)], Moscow: Mysl.
Boldyrev I.A. (1984), “So, this Volume Is Finished” (On the History of the Creation of the Final Version of the First Volume of ‘Capital’ by K. Marx) [“Itak, etot tom gotov” (K istorii sozdaniya okonchatelnogo varianta I toma ‘Kapitala’ K. Marxa)] Moscow: Mysl.
Goehler G. (1980), Die Reduktion der Dialektik durch Marx. Strukturveränderungen der dialektischen Entwicklung in der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta.
Hecker R. (2018), ‘Einfache Warenproduktion oder einfache Warenzirkulation’, in: Springpunkte. Beiträge zur Marx-Forschung und „Kapital“-Diskussion, Berlin: Dietz, pp. 201–206.
Khandruev A. (1983), Money in contemporary capitalist economy [Dengi v ekonomike sovremennogo kapitalisma]. Moscow: Mysl (in Russian).
Kogan A. (1983), In the Creative Laboratory of Karl Marx: The Plan of Economic Studies of 1857-59 and ‘Capital’ [V tvorcheskoy laboratorii Karla Marxa: Plan ekonomicheskikh issledovaniy 1957-1859 godov i ‘Kapital’], Мoscow: Mysl.
Müller M. (1978), Auf dem Weg zum „Kapital“. Zur Entwicklung des Kapitalbegriffs von Marx in den Jahren 1857–1863, Berlin: Akademie.
Ostrovityanov K., et al. (eds.) (1954), Political Economy. Textbook [Politicheskaya ekonomiya. Uchebnik], Moscow: Gospolitizdat.
Rubin Isaak I. (1990), Essays on Marx’s Theory of Value, Transl. from Russian, Montreal: Black Rose Books.
Shkredov, Vladimir Petrovich, (Wikipedia entry, in Russian).
Zagolov N., et al. (eds.) (1973-1974), The Course of Political Economy, in 2 vols, 3rd ed., [Kurs politicheskoy ekonomii], Moscow: Ekonomika.
Vazyulin V.M. (1968), The Logic of Marx’s ‘Capital’ [Logika ‘Kapitala’ K. Marxa]. Moscow: Moscow State University