Obituary: Domenico Mario Nuti

08 Apr 2021

On December 22, 2020 Domenico Mario Nuti, Professor of Economics (retired since 2010) at La Sapienza University of Rome, died. This is a profound loss that leaves a great void. Nuti was born in the Tuscan city of Arezzo on August 16, 1937 and in 1962 graduated in law from La Sapienza. That year (and 1963) he moved to Warsaw as a fellow of the Polish Academy of Sciences, studying with Michal Kalecki and Oskar Lange. From Warsaw he moved to Cambridge, where in 1970 he obtained a PhD in economics with Maurice Dobb and Nicholas Kaldor.

From 1965 to 1979, Nuti was a Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, and lecturer in the Faculty of Economics of the University of Cambridge. From 1980 to 1982, he was Professor and Director of the Centre for Russian and Eastern European Studies at the University of Birmingham. During the 1980s, Nuti became full Professor at the University of Siena and the European University Institute of Fiesole, near Florence. In 1993 he was appointed to the Chair of Comparative Economic Systems at the Sapienza University of Rome until his retirement. Until 2005, Nuti was also Visiting Professor at the London Business School.

It was at Cambridge that Mario Nuti began his journey as an academic, immediately establishing himself as a theorist of the highest quality, able to place his ideas in relation to their historical and political context. His writings covered a wide range of theoretical issues, from the incentive system and the choice of techniques in Soviet industry, to the implications of capital theory debates for capitalist and socialist systems, to the critique of the theoretical Kaldor/Mirrlees growth model, to the analysis of incomes policies, as well as important contributions to understanding the determinants of the class distribution of income.

In 1974, editing the essays of the Russian mathematical economist V. K. Dmitriev (1868–1913) for Cambridge University Press, he wrote a masterful introductory essay in which theoretical analysis and the history of economic thought are harmoniously blended.

Nuti’s originality and strengths were the result of his Marxian, historical, and legal backgrounds coupled with the intellectual domination of the ruling theories about the market, as well as a deep knowledge of the institutional, political, and ideological mechanisms that underlay the economies of Eastern Europe and the USSR. Indeed, Mario Nuti became one of the foremost scholars of the economics of socialism and of the post-socialist transitions.

The events of 1989-91 catapulted him into the Commission of the European Union as the highest expert on those countries, a commitment that lasted for the next two decades. In December 1989, he was invited to Brussels as an adviser to DG-II (then division for economic and monetary affairs) as head of relations with economies in transition. As a result, a long and intense phase followed during which Nuti produced many reports and essays, both on specific problems and countries, and on issues of general reflection. Mario Nuti addressed in a most original way both the crisis of the centrally-planned economies and the problems of the economics of transition, and his work became a necessary reference for the study of those countries.

Joseph Halevi, Macquarie University and Peter Kriesler, University of New South Wales