The Collapse of State Socialism

The Collapse of State Socialism: The Case of Poland

Bartłomiej Kamínski
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    The Collapse of State Socialism
    Book Description:

    Does the abrupt collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe arise only from errors in implementing the policy of state socialism, leaving the concept itself still a potentially valid one? Bartlomiej Kaminski argues to the contrary: state socialism is a fundamentally defective idea that was well carried out, enabling it to exist until its accumulated shortcomings made its survival extremely difficult. How did the flawed state-socialist system endure for so long? Why is it failing now? In answering these questions, Kaminski, who is both an economist and a political analyst, proposes a general theory and then applies it to the case of Poland. Contending that the breakdown of state socialism results from symbiosis of the state and the economy, the book describes how communist governments searched for tools that would replace the market mechanism and the rule of law. Doomed in advance by the absence of autonomy and competition, this search generated new crises by undermining the state's capacity to suppress individual interests and to direct the economy.

    Originally published in 1991.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6201-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-2)
    (pp. 3-16)

    Old Communists desperately seeking to reconcile with the abrupt collapse of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe are quoted as saying that communism remains a wonderful concept, but either people have not lived up to it or there were serious errors in its implementation. This book argues the opposite: communism, or state socialism,¹ was aterrible idea but awfully well implemented.

    Because institutional arrangements deprive state socialism of the capacity to channel self-interested behavior into socially beneficial performance and condition its survival on a base of direct coercion, the whole concept of politico-economic order is fundamentally flawed. By eliminating autonomous sources...

  6. CHAPTER ONE The Institutional Sources of Crisis-Generating Tendencies
    (pp. 17-44)

    The state socialist world today is collapsing. The root of its disintegration is the institutional structure of state socialism. The collapse of state socialism is of its own making. Its institutional structures are inadequate to cope with external and internal challenges. The promise and threat of the crisis is that it cannot be solved without overhauling the basic institutions of a socialist society.

    State socialism is set apart from other politico-economic systems by its institutional framework based on the fusion of the state and the economy as well as of the state and society. As such, it is a continuation...

  7. CHAPTER TWO The Limited “Reformability” of State Socialism
    (pp. 45-76)

    The fusion of the state and the economy accounts for the limited experimentation with various institutional frameworks and, therefore, for the limited repertoire of public policy instruments available to the socialist state. As will be shown, most tools of indirect control are not available to policy makers in state socialism because of the fusion.

    Poland’s “reform measures” shed light on the limits to institutional redesign under conditions of duress. Poland’s experience offers unique insights into the reformability of state socialism. The inconsistencies between institutional framework and policy instruments have been dramatically revealed because of domestic socioeconomic and external economic pressures....

  8. CHAPTER THREE The Logic of a Closed System: The Vicious Cycle of Decline
    (pp. 77-113)

    The East European economies followed similar paths of development and face similar problems today. They all experience the loss of developmental momentum, deteriorating growth performance, environmental crisis, declining productivity, and decreasing international competitiveness in manufactures, albeit to varying degrees.¹ This is so despite significant differences in their respective political and economic circumstances, in levels of development, endowments in natural resources, size, cultural traditions, etc. Because they all share the same politico-economic order, the explanation of the similarities lies in the institutional framework. The institutional framework, we shall see, leaves little room for diversity in developmental concepts and strategies.

    In chapter...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Crisis Management: The Trap of Negative Legitimation
    (pp. 114-134)

    In the absence of political mechanisms to deal with private and group interests, the socialist state has simply to impose its will to assure social compliance and stability. The instrumental use of law reduces the base for legitimation of state socialism. In the extreme case, it can assure obedience only by terror and massive repression. If this option is not acceptable (or not available) to the authorities, political and social stability becomes critically dependent on granting economic concessions to the populace. The development of state socialism in Poland demonstrates a link between economic performance and political upheavals and provides evidence...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Determinants of Normalization: Why Has It Failed to “Normalize” State Socialism in Poland?
    (pp. 135-161)

    An examination of the developments in the 1980–1988 period addresses the factors accountable for the uniqueness of the normalization in Poland. The normalization failed to normalize state socialism. Instead it led to the establishment of the first non-Communist cabinet in the Communist bloc. The failure to normalize was the combined effect of social, economic, and political factors that constrained the state’s space to maneuver.

    The capacity of policy makers to shape outcomes is constrained by domestic and external factors. The actual path of political development is determined by their ability to cope with the constraints and exploit the opportunities....

  11. CHAPTER SIX The Institutional Decomposition of State Socialism: The Syndrome of Withdrawal
    (pp. 162-193)

    A common symptom of changes that occurred in the 1980s in Poland is withdrawal. Two major tendencies have set the pace of the erosion of the organizing principles of state socialism: a spontaneous withdrawal of large segments of the society from political and economic spheres directly controlled by officialdom and a reluctant withdrawal of the socialist state from the pretense of directly controlling various spheres of social, political, and economic life. Because they represent two sides of the same coin and often reinforce each other, I shall refer to them as the syndrome of withdrawal or exit.

    The syndrome of...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Beyond State Socialism
    (pp. 194-212)

    State socialism, which is neither feared nor respected, is doomed to disintegrate. It derives its élan vital from the mobilization of society through repression, ideological appeal, and the lust for power exacerbated by the absence of direct political accountability. Societal immunity to repression and the decomposition of ideology leaves only raw power and the determination to cling to it.

    Given the Marxian origins of the ideology of state socialism, it is ironic that Marx’s laws of motion have turned out to be more applicable to a formation that emerged as a result of the Soviet Communist Revolution than to capitalism....

  13. APPENDIX A Stages of the “Post-Martial Law” Normalization: A Bird’s Eye View of Major Political Developments
    (pp. 213-236)
  14. APPENDIX B The Debt Trap
    (pp. 237-244)
  15. Abbreviations
    (pp. 245-246)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 247-262)
  17. Index
    (pp. 263-264)