Academic journal article World Review of Political Economy

Freedom and Justice: The Temptations for Russia of a False Choice

Academic journal article World Review of Political Economy

Freedom and Justice: The Temptations for Russia of a False Choice

Article excerpt

Freedom and Justice: the Temptations for Russia of a False Choice, BY Ruslan S. Grinberg Published 2012 by NIT. S Infra-M, Magistr, Moscow, Russia. 416pp. ISBN-10: 5977602170, ISBN-13: 978-5977602174

The name of Ruslan Semenovich Grinberg is well known to scholars in Russia and abroad. All the more interesting and significant, therefore, has been the appearance of his new book, in which are to be found interwoven some of the most complex questions of economic theory, those of the relationship between justice, freedom and efficiency. These issues have been debated for decades, even a century, but remain pressing in the modern epoch. In the context of the World Economic Crisis and of the widely discussed crisis of the welfare state, they are now taking on a special urgency. Russia and the world as a whole are at a crossroads, and are looking for alternatives-whether to go back (or forward?) to the liberal model of the free market, in which maximizing the wealth of each individual economic actor brings prosperity to society and automatically solves its major social problems, or to proceed to a new model of socially oriented development within a mixed economy. For Russia with its past, both Soviet and post-Soviet, this choice is posed in especially harsh terms.

How does Grinberg propose that these challenges be met?

Before beginning to analyze his book, I should note that discussing the future of socially oriented development might be regarded at present as outdated optimism- the crisis of the welfare state and of the European Union has been discussed with enviable regularity since 2010-11-were it not for serious counter-arguments that are put forward by supporters of the model in question.

An Alternative to the Crisis of the Welfare State: Expanded Justice as the Road to efficient Production. New Solutions to an Old Dilemma?

How does Grinberg answer the challenges encountered by the concept and practice of the welfare state? The author of this book in no way denies that the crisis is real, and that the question of how to renew social democratic doctrine is particularly urgent: "The very concept of the welfare state is in crisis, and according to some accounts, even in a dead end."1 Grinberg, however, views the crisis of the welfare state not as a sign that this paradigm has reached an impasse, but-and I repeat-as a challenge both to theory and to economic policy.

Before continuing to explore Grinberg's reflections on this theme, I shall permit myself a brief prologue. The crisis of the welfare state is by no means the sole crisis of recent decades. It is part of a general crisis of the models that have existed in the recent past and that exist today. I shall not venture now to discuss the crisis of the Soviet model. The implementing of the neoliberal model, meanwhile, brought on the world financial and economic crisis. In this context it is all but self-evident that the crisis of the social-democratic model is one aspect of the crisis of the old "grand paradigms."

Has the time therefore arrived for new projects?

Social democrats have already had to seek and find such new solutions, involving the founding of social, economic and political institutions, and then to fight long and hard for their consistent implementation. Today we find it hard to imagine a world without the bold steps that were taken in the past, and for which a heavy price had to be paid. I recall that a hundred years ago the tasks of winning an eight-hour working day and free primary education seemed absolutely unrealizable both in countries such as Russia and in those like Germany. Only a minority of "romantics" put forward these slogans, spoke in favor of them at meetings, and organized strikes. Now these measures have become the norm, but this would not have been the case had the struggle for these "utopian" demands not begun 100 years back.

Now the time has once again come to pose the task of carrying out changes on the scale of substituting the eight-hour for the twelve-hour working day 100 years ago. …

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