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Oskar R. Lange

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Oskar R. Lange
Oskar Lange 20-65.jpg
Oskar Lange
Born27 July 1904
Died2 October 1965(1965-10-02) (aged 61)
FieldPolitical economy
School or
Neo-Marxian economics[1]
InfluencesKarl Marx, Vilfredo Pareto, Léon Walras
ContributionsParetian Revival in general equilibrium theory

Oskar Ryszard Lange (27 July 1904 – 2 October 1965) was a Polish economist and diplomat. He is best known for advocating the use of market pricing tools in socialist systems and providing a model of market socialism.[3] He responded to the economic calculation problem proposed by Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek by claiming that managers in a centrally-planned economy would be able to monitor supply and demand through increases and declines in inventories of goods, and advocated the nationalization of major industries.[4] During his stay in the United States, Lange was an academic teacher and researcher in mathematical economics. Later in socialist Poland, he was a member of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers' Party and a believer in centrally-managed economy.[5]

Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Farbiarska 7 Street - place of birth
Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Farbiarska 7 Street - place of birth
I Lyceum in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Lange's secondary school
I Lyceum in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Lange's secondary school

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Thanks to for supporting PBS Digital Studios. There's this idea that beauty is a powerful guide to truth in the mathematics of physical theory. String theory is certainly beautiful in the eyes of many physicists, but is it beautiful enough to pursue even if it's wrong? [intro music] Hermann Weyl once said, "If I have to choose between beauty and truth, I choose beauty." It was in reaction to a rebuke by Einstein. Weyl had tried to explain electromagnetism by imposing on Einstein's general theory of relativity. the very first gauge symmetry -- Weyl invariance Einstein pointed out that the proposal led to some absurd results, and so the idea went down in flames. It just couldn't be true, despite the elegance of the math. But sometimes it can be hard to let go of the sense that a beautiful theory must be right. Could this also be the case with string theory? As it happens, Weyl's old idea did work when translated to the very particular case of a quantum string, which is part of what got string theory going in the first place. We talked about this in detail in our episode on why string theory is right. Which itself was a sequel to our primer on the basics of string theory. In those episodes, we saw some of the remarkable ways that string theory promised to converge on a theory of everything. It seemed so beautiful, the effortlessness of its inclusion of quantum gravity, its promise to unify all particles under one umbrella, and there's also the convergence of many versions of string theory into a single picture with a very specific number of extra dimensions. I'll talk more about that today. So why, with all of this promise of being so right do more and more physicists think that string theory is after all either woefully incomplete or just plain wrong? Modern string theory is the convergence of many beautiful ideas in physics, each of which feel right in their own way. To see where string theory ultimately fails, we need to rewind to look at some of these a bit closer, to start with, to a precursor to string theory and the origin of all this extra dimension stuff. In 1919, not long after Einstein published his great theory of gravity, Theodor Kaluza discovered something strange. He was playing around with the newfangled general relativity in five dimensions, 4 space and 1 time, because why not. He found that in the right sort of 5-D space-time, you can separate the resulting Einstein equations into a 4-D component that looks exactly like the familiar general relativity in our universe, plus an extra bit of math from the extra special dimension. Crazily, that math also looked familiar. It looked like Maxwell's equations for electromagnetism. It appeared that gravity acting in this fifth dimension looks like electromagnetism to being trapped in our 4-D space-time. Einstein himself was supposedly jubilant at the idea -- a rather better reaction than was received for the electromagnetism of poor old Hermann Weyl. The mild inconvenience of their very clearly being no extra special dimension was solved by Oskar Klein in the late 1920's. Klein realized that you can get a sensible quantum theory if you compactify that extra dimension. Shrink it down to around 10 to the power of negative thirtieth of a meter, so it's only visible to things equally miniscule. In the resulting in Kaluza–Klein theory, the fifth dimension is looped into a tiny circle. At every point in space, there's another direction to move: up, down, left, right, forward, back, and around. Momentum in that loop dimension has the exact behavior of electric charge, with the direction of rotation determining the sign of the charge. It was an incredible discovery and a beautiful one. It even made a prediction: the ratio between the mass of the electric charge and the electron. Assuming the experimentally measured value for the electric charge, the corresponding electron mass should be around five kilograms? Probably wrong, and it's not the only problem with the first version of Kaluza–Klein theory. It also predicted an unknown field, the dilaton field, and a corresponding particle that had never been seen. It also didn't give anything beyond electromagnetism, but, to be fair, the other fundamental forces hadn't even been discovered at that stage. These may have seemed like fatal flaws, but we can thank this wrongness for the later development of string theory. People tried various things to fix these issues. For example, adding more compact dimensions of various shapes and, of course, strings. There are many Kaluza-Klein inspired theories out there. String theory is just the most famous. So, start with Kaluza-Klein, add vibrating strings and exactly the right extra special dimensions, and you have string theory. The last critical ingredient is supersymmetry. This is a theoretical symmetry between bosons and fermions, which very elegantly explains certain anomalies, like the vast differences in strengths between the fundamental forces. It also introduces fermions to the boson only version of string theory to give super string theory. The introduction of supersymmetry along with the discovery of the right symmetries for the extra dimensions sparked the first superstring revolution of the mid 80s, roughly coinciding with the theatrical release of Weird Science. Just saying. Superstring started out with incredible promise, and so there was a proliferation of different versions of super string theory. It turns out there are five ways to tie superstring: Type 1, Type 2 (A and B), heterotic SO32, and E8 by E8. Five different approaches to getting all of the desired particles out of the basic premise of strings wiggling in ten dimensions. All required six compactified extra dimensions of space. What differs is the detailed geometries and symmetries of those spaces, and the way strings vibrate within them. In fact, these versions appeared fundamentally different from each other, divergent, rather than convergent, contradictory even. Hardly elegant, one might even say ugly, or wrong. But the key to their convergence and the return to beauty had already been glimpsed. The various superstring theories exhibited what we call dualities. A duality in physics is when two apparently different mathematical theories proved to represent the same physical process. These dualities reveal that certain classes of string theory were actually the different ways of expressing exactly the same theory. Perhaps there was a glimmer of hope for these divergent versions of string theory after all. To give you a sense of what a duality looks like, let's go back to the good old simplicity of Kaluza–Klein theory, or at least at the simplicity of just one extra circular spatial dimension. In fact, let's simplify even further. Imagine only one extended and one compactified spatial dimension. If the latter is circular, we can get a tube. Our tiny quantum strings can roam that small dimension. They can even wind around it, perhaps multiple times in either direction, before forming a closed loop. The number of times a string winds around this compactified dimension is called its winding number. The energy of such a string depends on the winding number times the radius of the compactified dimension. That makes sense, it basically gives the length of the string. These strings are vibrating with standing waves like guitar strings, and their energy also depends on the frequency of that vibration. That frequency depends on the density of wave cycles on the string. That's just the number of wave cycles around each coil, or the mode number divided by the radius. So, there are two ways to get a high-energy string: have a large winding number along with a large radius that gives you a long string, or have a large mode number with a small radius and that gives you a high frequency vibration. It turns out that mathematically, these two are completely equivalent. At least, they give exactly the same physics, either winding number times radius, or mode number divided by radius can be used to define the momentum of a particle produced by this string. So you can construct a theory in which momentum increases with the size of the compact dimension, or where momentum decreases with that size and both give the same results. It sounds weird but this may just have saved string theory. I just described a type of duality, in this case t-duality, short for target space duality. In a duality two apparently contradictory way of describing the mechanics of the universe can lead to exactly the same results. The appearance of dualities tells us that we probably can't take our geometric interpretations of the math as seriously as we'd like to. T-dualities prove that some of these different versions of string theory are actually different expressions of the same theory. The other main type of duality in string theory is s-duality, strong-weak duality. In this case it's a duality between strongly versus weakly interacting strings. This seems even more contradictory, but it's incredibly powerful. We will glimpse the mechanics and the implications of s-duality, as we look deeper into m-theory and holography in the future. S-duality provided the final linchpin that demonstrated that the five different types of string theory were all manifestations of the same theory. The guy who ultimately brought it together was Ed Witten. At a string conference in '95, Witten showed that the disparate string theories were all just different perspectives, different limits or special cases of a single overarching theory. This was m-theory, where M stands for really what have you want it to: membrane, magic, mother theory. According to Witten is to be decided when the full nature of the theory is understood. We'll come back to M-theory in real detail, but the important thing here is that it adds a single extra dimension, to connect all of the five super string theory types via s-duality. So whereas the original superstring theories were ten dimensional with six compactified, M-theory is 11D, with seven hidden dimensions. Wait, didn't the movie seven come out in '95 also? Whoa Well, that all sounds a bit arbitrary. Your theory not working? Just add an extra dimension. Actually, the realization that superstring theory could be 11 dimensional was a revolution. It sparked the second superstring revolution. See, in parallel to the development of super string theory, other physicists have been working on super gravity. For independent reasons that we don't have time to get into, 11 is also the magic number for super gravity dimensions. Super gravity should be the low energy, large-scale limit to super string theory. So it was incredibly exciting that string theory appeared to have an 11 dimensional version, M-theory, to correspond to everyone's favorite 11 D super gravity. This convergence of the superstring theories with each other and with super gravity restored the sense of beauty to string theory. It appeared to be on the track to rightness once again, so So where did things go wrong? Well, in a sense they were never really right. This M-theory thing, it's still not well-defined. It's not solvable using perturbation theory, which doesn't leave much room to explore its implications. In all superstring theories the extra spatial dimensions are wrapped, not in simple loops, but in complicated geometries called Calabi-Yau manifolds. The behavior of strings in these hyper dimensional surfaces is only understood in idealized cases. For example, sections of these manifolds that can be approximated as simple tubes, like in Kaluza-Klein line theory. But more worrying, there are countless possible geometries, countless Calabi-Yau manifolds, to choose from. The standard number given is 10 to the power of 500 different topologies, the actual number is a lot higher. This is the string landscape. Each geometry for the compactified dimensions implies a different set of porperties for vibrating strings, and so a different family of particles and different laws of physics to go with them. It seems an impossible task to find which one corresponds to our universe, if any do. This is the impasse. In principle the standard model lives somewhere in the string landscape, but without knowing the geometry of the extra dimensions, this can't be verified nor can we make testable predictions beyond the standard model. Well there is supersymmetry. Essentially all string theories require supersymmetry in order to work. Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider had expected to find supersymmetric particles by now. They haven't. There's a hint from cosmic rays, we talked about it earlier. But string theories are still rightly concerned. Their elegant theory which was converging so beautifully has stalled. Will they follow in the example of Hermann Weyl and choose beauty over truth? One last word on Weyl. His idea of explaining electromagnetism by adding his gauge symmetry to general relativity was wrong, but it inspired the entire field of gauge theory upon which much of our understanding of the quantum world depends. It also gave us the sought after quantum electromagnetism in the end, just with a slightly different symmetry. So perhaps string theorists should also stick to their guns. As wrong or incomplete as current string theory may be, it may also be the inevitable early step as we seek an even more beautiful and ultimately more right understanding of space-time. learning the physics required to understand string theory is tough thankfully there are online tools that can help like brilliance a problem-solving website that teaches you to tackle difficult topics and think like a scientist by breaking up complexities into Understandable pieces and instead of just passively listening to lectures you get to master concepts by solving interesting and challenging problems? So whether you want to learn about special relativity in quantum physics or brush up on your complex algebra and differential equations you can learn more at brilliant org slash space-time Now before I get to comments don't forget to check out our all new space-time merch store and if you feel up for it support us on patreon links in the description now last week we peered into the looking-glass and saw how a universe that's spatially reflected in a mirror has fundamentally different laws of physics to our own you had your own Reflections on the subject. socks with sandals points out that parity inversion isn't the only thing reflected in a true mirror universe And that's right. In a perfect reflection of our universe, not only are spatial coordinates flipped, charges are also reversed and in fact time is reversed too. Only when you reverse parity charges and time do you get a universe that behaves like, ours one full of mirror reflected antimatter traveling backwards in time Well so the cpt theorem tells us and we'll get back to that real soon and yes if matter from that Mirror Universe broke through and came into contact with ours it wouldn't be pretty infinity years bad luck William wonders whether the helix of the DNA molecule would be reverse in a mirror universe well I think the answer is both yes and I don't know Depending on how you think about it William is referring to the fact that DNA always wins in a particular direction it's chiral and always has the same chirality we define DNA to be right-handed So if you look at DNA in a mirror its left-handed but is its chirality determined by something fundamental about our universe if DNA forms on another planet is it always right-handed would a parity reflected universe always have left-handed DNA now that's not so obvious Right-handed DNA is built entirely of right-handed amino acids but those are in equal abundance to left-handed amino acids in nature so why only right-handed DNA and it's likely because the first are in a precursor to DNA just by chance happen to form from right-handed amino acids these could replicate but only using other right-handed amino acids after that right-handed replicators were the only game in town At least for the earth so have you accused us of filming that episode in a mirror universe apparently balls were spinning clockwise when I said counter clockwise left became right and vice-versa on multiple occasions Some of you even heard Yee and Lang instead of Li and yang come on people if I was in a mirror universe I'd have a beard be evil and be like Australian or something Will they follow the apple of Herman Weyl and choose beauty over truth? divergent rather than convergent,



Lange was born in Tomaszów Mazowiecki as son of Arthur Julius Lange and Sophie Albertine Rosner. His ancestors had emigrated at the beginning of the 19th century from Germany to Poland.[6] He studied law and economics at the University of Kraków, where he defended a doctoral dissertation in 1928 under Adam Krzyżanowski. From 1926 to 1927 Lange worked at the Ministry of Labor in Warsaw, and then was a research assistant at the University of Kraków (1927–31). He married Irene Oderfeld in 1932. In 1934, a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship brought him to England, from where he emigrated to the United States in 1937. Lange became a professor at the University of Chicago in 1938 and was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1943.[7]

Joseph Stalin, who identified Lange as a person of leftist and pro-Soviet sympathies, prevailed on President Franklin D. Roosevelt to obtain a passport for Lange to visit the Soviet Union in an official capacity, so that Stalin could speak with him personally; he also proposed offering him a position in the future Polish cabinet. The State Department was opposed to Lange traveling as an emissary because they felt that his political views represented neither Americans of Polish descent nor American public opinion in general. Lange's trip to the Soviet Union in 1944 caused further controversy, as the newly-establish Polish American Congress condemned him and defended the interests of the London-based Polish government-in-exile. Lange returned to the United States at the end of May and met, at Roosevelt's request, with Prime Minister Stanisław Mikołajczyk of the government-in-exile, who was on a visit in Washington. Lange stressed how reasonable Stalin was prepared to be (Stalin told him of the Soviet desire to preserve independent Poland under a coalition government), and asked the State Department to put pressure on the exiled Polish leadership to reach an understanding with the Soviet leader.[8]

Towards the end of World War II, Lange broke with the Polish government-in-exile and transferred his support to the Lublin Committee (PKWN) sponsored by the Soviet Union. Lange served as a go-between for Roosevelt and Stalin during the Yalta Conference discussions on post-war Poland.

After the war ended in 1945, Lange returned to Poland. He then renounced his American citizenship and went back to the US in the same year as the Polish People's Republic's first ambassador to the United States.[9] In 1946, Lange also served as Poland's delegate to the United Nations Security Council. From 1947 he lived in Poland.[7]

Oskar Lange worked for the Polish government while continuing his academic pursuits at the University of Warsaw and the Main School of Planning and Statistics. He was deputy chairman of the Polish Council of State in 1961–65, and as such one of four acting chairmen of the Council of State (a head of state function).

Oskar Lange monument at the Wrocław University of Economics
Oskar Lange monument at the Wrocław University of Economics

Academic contributions

The bulk of Lange's contributions to economics came during his American interlude of 1933–45. Despite being an ardent socialist, Lange deplored the Marxian labor theory of value because he was very much a believer in the neoclassical theory of price. In the history of economics, he is probably best known for his work On the Economic Theory of Socialism published in 1936, where he famously put Marxian economics and neoclassical economics together.

In the book, Lange advocated the use of market tools (especially the neoclassical pricing theory) in economic planning of socialism and Marxism. He proposed that central planning boards set prices through "trial and error", making adjustments as shortages and surpluses occur rather than relying on a free price mechanism. Under this system, central planners would arbitrarily pick a price for products manufactured in government factories and raise it or reduce, depending on whether it resulted in shortages or gluts. After this economic experiment had been run a few times, mathematical methods would be employed to plan the economy: if there were shortages, prices would be raised; if there were surpluses, prices would be lowered.[10] Raising the prices would encourage businesses to increase production, driven by their desire to increase profits, and in doing so eliminate the shortage. Lowering the prices would encourage businesses to curtail production in order to prevent losses, which would eliminate the surplus. In Lange's opinion, such simulation of market mechanism would be capable of effectively managing supply and demand. Proponents of this idea argued that it combines the advantages of a market economy with those of socialist economy.

With the utilization of this idea, Lange claimed, a state-run economy would be at least as efficient as a capitalist or private market economy. He argued that this was possible, provided the government planners used the price system as if in a market economy and instructed state industry managers to respond parametrically to state-determined prices (minimize cost, etc.). Lange's argument was one of the pivots of the socialist calculation debate with the Austrian School economists. At that time, the view among English socialists of the Fabian Society was that Lange had won the debate.[10] His works provided the earliest model of market socialism.[11]

Lange also made contributions in various other areas. He was one of the leading lights of the "Paretian Revival" in general equilibrium theory during the 1930s. In 1942, he provided one of the first proofs of the First and Second Welfare Theorems. He initiated the analysis of stability of general equilibrium (1942, 1944). His critique of the quantity theory of money (1942) prompted his student Don Patinkin to develop his remarkable "integration" of money into general equilibrium theory. Lange made several seminal contributions to the development of neoclassical synthesis (1938, 1943, 1944). He worked on integrating classical economics and neoclassical economics into a single theoretical structure (e.g. 1959). In his final years, Lange also worked on cybernetics and the use of computers for economic planning.

The International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) awarded Oskar Lange an honorary fellowship in 1962.


  • 1934. "The Determinateness of the Utility Function," RES.
  • 1935. "Marxian Economics and Modern Economic Theory," Review of Economic Studies, 2(3), pp. 189–201.
  • 1936a. "The Place of Interest in the Theory of Production", RES
  • 1936b. "On the Economic Theory of Socialism, Part One," Review of Economic Studies, 4(1), pp. 53–71.
  • 1937. "On the Economic Theory of Socialism, Part Two," Review of Economic Studies, 4(2), pp. 123–142.
  • 1938. On the Economic Theory of Socialism, (with Fred M. Taylor), Benjamin E. Lippincott, editor. University of Minnesota Press, 1938.
  • 1938. "The Rate of Interest and the Optimum Propensity to Consume", Economica
  • 1939. "Saving and Investment: Saving in Process Analysis", QJE
  • 1939. "Is the American Economy Contracting?", AER
  • 1940. "Complementarity and Interrelations of Shifts in Demand", RES
  • 1942. "Theoretical Derivation of the Elasticities of Demand and Supply: the direct method", Econometrica
  • 1942. "The Foundations of Welfare Economics", Econometrica
  • 1942. "The Stability of Economic Equilibrium", Econometrica.
  • 1942. "Say's Law: A Restatement and Criticism", in Lange et al., editors, Studies in Mathematical Economics.
  • 1943. "A Note on Innovations", REStat
  • "The Theory of the Multiplier", 1943, Econometrica
  • "Strengthening the Economic Foundations of Democracy", with Abba Lerner, 1944, American Way of Business.
  • 1944. Price Flexibility and Employment.
  • 1944. "The Stability of Economic Equilibrium" (Appendix of Lange, 1944)
  • 1944. "The Rate of Interest and the Optimal Propensity to Consume", in Haberler, editor, Readings in Business Cycle Theory.
  • 1945a. "Marxian Economic in the Soviet Union," American Economic Review, 35( 1), pp. 127–133.
  • 1945b. "The Scope and Method of Economics", RES.
  • 1949. "The Practice of Economic Planning and the Optimum Allocation of Resources", Econometrica
  • 1953. "The Economic Laws of Socialist Society in Light of Joseph Stalin's Last Work", Nauka Paulska, No. 1, Warsaw (trans ., 1954, International Economic Papers, No. 4, pp. 145–ff. Macmillan.
  • 1959. "The Political Economy of Socialism," Science & Society, 23(1) pp. 1–15.
  • Introduction to Econometrics, 1958.
  • 1960. "The Output-Investment Ratio and Input-Output Analysis", Econometrica
  • 1961. Theories of Reproduction and Accumulation,
  • 1961. Economic and Social Essays, 1930–1960.
  • 1963. Political economy, Macmillan.
  • 1963. Economic Development, Planning and Economic Cooperation.
  • 1963. Essays on Economic Planning.
  • 1964. Optimal Decisions: principles of programming.
  • 1965. Problems of Political Economy of Socialism, Peoples Publishing House.
  • 1965. ' 'Wholes and Parts: A General Theory of System Behavior, Pergamon Press.
  • 1965. "The Computer and the Market", 1967, in Feinstein, editor, Socialism, Capitalism and Economic Growth.
  • 1970. Introduction to Economic Cybernetics, Pergamon Press. Review extract.

See also


  1. ^ Bruce Williams, Making and Breaking Universities, Macleay Press, p. 103.
  2. ^ J. Tinbergen, 1991. "Solving the Most Urgent Problems First", in Michael Szenberg (ed.) 1993, Eminent Economists: Their Life Philosophies, Cambridge University Press, p. 279 (
  3. ^ Thadeusz Kowalik, [1987] 2008. "Lange, Oskar Ryszard (1904–1965)", The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition. Abstract.
  4. ^ "Oskar Ryszard Lange". Econlib. Retrieved 2019-04-17.
  5. ^ Witold Gadomski, Rynek trzyma smycz [Gadomski o książce Belki] (The market holds the leash [Gadomski about Belka's book]). 11 June 2016. Rynek trzyma smycz. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  6. ^ Who is Who in Central and East-Europe 1933/34 Zürich 1935, referenced in: Beate Kosmala: Juden und Deutsche im polnischen Haus. Tomaszów Mazowiecki 1914–1939. Berlin 2001, p. 227.
  7. ^ a b Halik Kochanski (2012). The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War, pp. 612–613. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-06814-8.
  8. ^ Halik Kochanski (2012). The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War, pp. 441–444.
  9. ^ "Lange to yield citizenship to be Poles' envoy". Chicago Daily Tribune. 20 August 1945.
  10. ^ a b Dalmia, Shikha, 2012, Cheer Up, Liberty Lovers, Schumpeter Was Wrong, Reason, Feb. 23.
  11. ^ Robin Hahnel, 2005.Economic Justice and Democracy, Routlege, page 170


  • Milton Friedman, 1946. "Lange on Price Flexibility and Employment: A Methodological Criticism", American Economic Review, 36(4), pp. 613– 631. Reprinted in Friedman, 1953, Essays in Positive Economics, pp. 277–300.
  • Charles Sadler, 1977. "Pro-Soviet Polish-Americans: Oskar Lange and Russia's Friends in the Polonia, 1941–1945", Polish Review, 22(4), pp. 25–39.

External links

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