Common Knowledge 9.1 (2003) 165-166
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Lawrence R. Klein and Marshall Pomer, eds., The New Russia: Transition Gone Awry (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001), 454 pp.
Hailed by the Samuel Smileses of our times as a "transition to a market system," Russia's economic collapse is experienced by millions of ordinary citizens as dislocation and impoverishment. Armies of Western advisers, acting as "market Bolsheviks," convinced Russian leaders that only immediate freeing of prices and rapid privatization (which meant giving away state property to your friends at fire-sale prices) could revive the moribund Soviet economy. To remove the dead hand of the state, the shock therapists destroyed the threadbare welfare "safety net," causing great shock without any therapy at all. Corruption, crime, rising mortality rates, all accompanied the decimation of educational, medical, and cultural institutions. What had once been lauded as "achievements of Soviet socialism" [End Page 165] were now seen as costly barriers to freedom and capitalism. Klein and Pomer gather together economists and politicians, from Gorbachev to Kenneth Arrow, for a devastating indictment of Western advice and some cautious prescriptions for how a functioning economy might be resuscitated from the ruins.
Ronald Suny, professor of political science at the University of Chicago, is the author of The Soviet Experiment and The Revenge of the Past: Nationalism, Revolution, and the Collapse of the Soviet Union.