Why the Cold War Ended: A Range of Interpretations

By Ralph Summy; Michael E. Salla | Go to book overview

9
Marxism, Capitalism, and Democracy: Some Post-Soviet Dilemmas

Geoff Dow

This chapter presumes that the end of the Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet economy are two aspects of the same phenomenon. It is this phenomenon that has been underwritten by a complicit intellectual failure which itself helped to define both the Cold War and its subsequent dissipation: the absence of a systematic differentiation between the economic problems of development and the economic problems of socialism. In the former Soviet system, many apparent problems derived from low levels of material development; only part of these ought to be attributed to the attempt to create a distinctively socialist route to affluence.

The Cold War came into being because an experiment in "socialism before capitalism" was attempted. Its most alarming manifestation, the possibility of real war, concluded because that experiment has been abandoned. But another of its manifestations, intellectual impoverishment, lingers. Perhaps controversially, this chapter suggests that Western intellectuals with a commitment, however vague and nondoctrinaire, to socialist or antiliberal principles are culpable insofar as less analytical energy has been devoted to the task of anticipating and specifying the difficulties of a nonmarket and nonrepressive mode of economic development than has been marshaled in the cause of undermining it. Just as the Cold War smothered Keynesian and social democratic attempts to impose political criteria on economic development in the West, thus keeping levels of economic development lower than they might have been in capitalist economics, so too has it ensured political and economic failure in the East. The politics of the Left has not been well served by its theorists or politicians.

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