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

By Joachim Zweynert Copyright 2018
    ISBN 9780367891121
    154 Pages
    Published December 12, 2019 by Routledge

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    ISBN 9781138559271
    154 Pages
    Published November 3, 2017 by Routledge

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    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

    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


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

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