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

When Ideas Fail

Economic Thought, the Failure of Transition and the Rise of Institutional Instability in Post-Soviet Russia, 1st Edition

By Joachim Zweynert


144 pages

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Hardback: 9781138559271
pub: 2017-11-02
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780203712931
pub: 2017-11-01
from $27.48

FREE Standard Shipping!


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

Reappraisal of the planned economy

Indicative planning and mobilisation versus structural reforms

Liberal Reactions to increasing state intereference

Economics or political economy?

Russian economic science on the retreat from international discourse

7 A New Transition Debate: 2007-2012

2007 as a turning point

Conflicting concepts of innovation and modernization

Modernization and innovation in economics and in sociology

The "coalitions for modernization" debate

Discussions within the liberal camp

The position of the gosudarstvenniki

The political dimension of the debate

Conservative modernization versus innovation

Innovation and modernization in presidential speeches

A "fear of perestroika"?

8 Conclusion

Biographical Appendix


About the Author

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

About the Series

Routledge Studies in the European Economy

Routledge Studies in the European Economy is our home for cutting-edge, upper-level scholarly studies and edited collections. Featuring compact and well researched volumes of 150 to 300 pages, the series provides a range of content considering the European economy alongside history, politics, cultural studies, agriculture, education, globalisation, and other subjects, titles are characterized by dynamic interventions into established subjects and innovative studies on emerging topics.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Accounting / Financial
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Banks & Banking
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Business Ethics
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Corporate Finance
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Economic Conditions
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Economic History
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Money & Monetary Policy
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / International / Taxation
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Urban & Regional
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Economic Development
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / International / Economics
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Industries / Financial Services
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Corporate & Business History
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Government & Business
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Corporate Governance