When Ideas Fail : Economic Thought, the Failure of Transition and the Rise of Institutional Instability in Post-Soviet Russia book cover
1st Edition

When Ideas Fail
Economic Thought, the Failure of Transition and the Rise of Institutional Instability in Post-Soviet Russia

ISBN 9780367891121
Published December 12, 2019 by Routledge
154 Pages

USD $49.95

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Book Description

In the history of Russian economic ideas, a peculiar mix of anthropocentrism and holism provided fertile breeding ground for patterns of thought that were in potential conflict with the market. These patterns, did not render the emergence of capitalism in Russia impossible. But they entailed a deep intellectual division between adherents and opponents of Russia’s capitalist transformation that made Russia’s social evolution unstable and vulnerable to external shocks.

This study offers an ideational explanation of Russia’s relative failure to establish a functioning market economy and thus sets up a new and original perspective for discussion. In post-Soviet Russia, a clash between imported foreground ideas and deep domestic background ideas has led to an ideational division among the elite of the country. Within economic science, this led to the emergence of two thought collectives, (in the sense of Ludvik Fleck), with entirely different understandings of social reality.

This ideational division translated into incoherent policy measures, the emergence of institutional hybrids and thus, all in all, into institutional instability. Empirically, the book is based on a systematic, qualitative analysis of the writings of Soviet/Russian economists between 1987 and 2012.

This groundbreaking book makes an important contribution to Central Eastern and Eastern European area studies and to the current debate on ideas and institutions in the social sciences.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 The Role of Ideas in Great Transformations

Transition as functional differentiation

Constructivist institutionalism and the structure/agency-problem

What is special about Russia

What is special about Russia I: Lack of liberal underground discourses

What is specific about Russia II: The struggle between two thought collectives

What is Specific about Russia III: Deep ideational backgrounds

3 The Legacy of the Brezhnev Period: 1971-1986

Why deal with the Brezhnev period?

Self-organization versus mobilization

The economics of developed socialism

The origins of the concept

The economic mechanism

Base and superstructure

Commodity-money relations


4 Cracking the Protective Belt: 1987-1992

Back to the 1960s and taking it further

What was Soviet ideology?

Perestroika and the Soviet telos

Early debates in Voprosy ekonomiki, and the new textbook on political economy

The inflow of Western liberal ideas

The MEiMO debate on Western reforms

The Debates in the general interest press

The decline of Soviet ideology

Paradigm shift or continuity?

5 Towards a Precarious Consensus: 1993-1998

Western textbooks, Russian reality

The intellectual background to shock therapy

Post-industrial society and the comeback of slavophile ideas

Regulation, economic security, and the "Russian economic school"

The rise of Russian institutionalism

A new consensus?

6 In Search of a "Russian Way": 1999-2006

Taking stock of post-socialist reforms

The discussion about the stabilization fund

The nationalist turn

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Joachim Zweynert is Professor of International Political Economy at Witten/ Herdecke University, Germany. He studied economics and political science at Hamburg University, Germany.