Economic Transition in Russia and the New States of Eurasia

By Bartlomiej Kaminski | Go to book overview

1
Introduction

Bartlomiej Kaminski

"People who love soft methods and hate iniquity forget this--that reform consists in taking a bone from a dog. Philosophy will not do it."

John Jay Chapman, Practical Agitation, ch. 7 ( 1898)

Before the collapse of communism many countries dismantled their authoritarian regimes and relaxed their administrative grip over economic activity. Under the weight of the debt crisis crippling their economies in the 1980s, many Latin American countries introduced democratic reforms, made leaders accountable to their constituents, and liberalized their economic regimes. In fact, most of the world's economies have, at different times, paces, and with varying degrees of success, removed administrative controls over prices, liberalized access to their markets, and privatized state-owned enterprises. The distinguished troika of democratization, liberalization, and privatization was on the march even before the collapse of communism.

Thus, the question is whether there is something unique about the transition from communism. What clearly distinguishes the transition from communism is its institutional point of departure. While communist ideologues were rarely right, their view that capitalism and communism "were as different and incompatible as fire and water" accurately reflected the reality.1 Communism was a distinct system. Its institutional design, predicated on the aspiration of the state to control totally both society and the economy, explicitly rejected the relative autonomy of society, state, and economy. Communism was an evolutionary step backward--or rather a continuation of earlier political systems dominated by patrimonial bureaucracies and traditional hierarchies--although it professed progress in its ideology and based its legitimacy on modernization.

-3-

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