Perestroika in Perspective

Perestroika in Perspective: The Design and Dilemmas of Soviet Reform

Padma Desai
Copyright Date: 1989
Edition: REV - Revised
Pages: 232
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    Perestroika in Perspective
    Book Description:

    Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika is a historic effort at restructuring the troubled Soviet economy. Wide-ranging in scope, harnessed with cultural and political reforms, it raises intriguing and important questions: Are Gorbachev's ideas different from the Kosygin-Brezhnev reform of 1965 that came to naught? What kinds of problems do the Russians have in understanding the market system? Who opposes perestroika? Do Gorbachev's proposals threaten his own future as Soviet leader? How does perestroika relate to a more general environment of openness, of glasnost? What happened at the June 1988 Party Conference? And, above all, is the old order really giving way to a new one? Or does Gorbachev aim at "capitalist icing on a socialist cake"?.

    To answer these questions and others, Padma Desai, a distinguished pioneer in the modern econometric analysis of the Soviet economy, has distilled from Gorbachev's myriad decrees the outlines of his strategy for doing away with the Soviet Union's long-term economic malaise. Focusing on the key areas of industry, agriculture, services, and foreign trade, she discusses specific blueprints for change and evaluates the possibilities for their success. Skillfully combining charts, photographs, cartoons, and quotes, this book offers a unique and coherent view of the strategy underlying Gorbachev's reform efforts to date--and does so gracefully and with sparkle, in terms completely understandable to the layperson.

    Originally published in 1990.

    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: 978-1-4008-5986-3
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Why Reforms?
    (pp. 3-7)

    In the final years of Brezhnev’s leadership, the Soviet Union was by all accounts going downhill. The decay was visible on all fronts. While economists cited the declining growth rate of the economy (see fig. 1.1) as a surefire index of the malaise, others concentrated on recurring shortages, increasing corruption, and massive alienation. Moral and social values, an enduring concern in the Russian tradition, were widely held to be in jeopardy.

    The declining growth rate was the result largely of the declining productivity of resources. More factories were built, but their output record was lackluster. The work force lacked the...

  5. CHAPTER TWO The Legacy of the Economic Malaise
    (pp. 8-25)

    The Soviet economy is overplanned and overadministered. The special problems arising from this arrangement and the analysis of them have kept Soviet-area specialists busy for years. Indeed, if perestroika were really to succeed, it would take quite a bit of the wind out of our professional sails.

    There is much that ails the Soviet economy, and the problems have been analyzed extensively. In assessing Mikhail Gorbachev’s challenge and response, however, it is necessary to review briefly the salient failings of the system that he has inherited and that his reforms address.

    Two events of momentous significance have left an enduring...

  6. CHAPTER THREE The Reforms: Their Design
    (pp. 26-43)

    Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms have been announced in a succession, indeed a blitzkrieg, of decrees. As a result, it is easy to miss the forest for the trees. I will therefore concentrate in this chapter on reviewing the salient features of these decrees, as they relate to the key areas of industry, agriculture, services, and foreign trade. This should pave the way for the critical analysis later (in chapters 5, 6, and 7) of the essential nature of Gorbachev’s reforms and, hence, of their promise and prospects.

    At the outset, it is important to note that the reforms are envisaged as...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR The Likelihood of Success: 1965 versus Now
    (pp. 44-50)

    In evaluating the merits of the reforms,¹ the first logical step, in my view, is to assess the chances of their success by contrasting them with the 1965 reforms, which did not succeed.

    On paper, the reforms of 1965 under the Kosygin-Brezhnev leadership were a big step forward. They represented the first attempt at toning up enterprise performance by giving it financial incentives. They also addressed the problems of improving product quality and introducing new technologies into the economy. There were reforms in agriculture, and prices were revised too.

    The 1965 reforms were precursors of the current package in one...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Introducing Markets: A Faulty Design
    (pp. 51-60)

    A critical feature of a capitalist market is the freedom to choose. For the consumer, the freedom goes beyond the textbook example of whether one will buy an apple or an orange. “Shall we buy a car or have a baby?” is a consumption decision. “Shall we buy government bonds or IBM stock?” reflects concern over the form savings should take. For the producer, the decisions relate to the amount and assortment of outputs to be produced at given prices and, quite often, to the price itself, anticipating how much a rival would charge on a similar product. The long-term...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Changing the “Superstructure”: Beyond Economic Reforms
    (pp. 61-81)

    If the capitalist markets are kept at bay in the design of perestroika, so also is the capitalist political system. There is no mincing of words here. The country will march forward under the guidance of the Communist Party on the basis of Lenin’s precepts. The Western political system, with its separation of powers, multiparty system and elections, free press, and independent judiciary, currently has no place in the reforms.

    But the existing political arrangements cannot continue. As with economic restructuring, the challenges of reforming current Soviet “politics” are formidable. The proposed changes nevertheless reveal Mikhail Gorbachev’s view of the...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Foreign Policy: New Thinking and Initiatives
    (pp. 82-96)

    Matching the speed with which Mikhail Gorbachev has moved on the broader, noneconomic aspects of reform is the rapidity with which Soviet foreign policy has been recast by him. Old policies and ideological attitudes in regard to the three traditional areas of Soviet interest—Eastern Europe, the Third World, and the United States—are now in unparalleled flux. Once again, the motivation seems twofold: to reexamine the old practices in a search for better, more efficient, ways of achieving given political goals and to seek indirect economic benefits that will aid the new efforts at economic restructuring.

    At the end...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT The Strategy of Reform
    (pp. 97-110)

    Gorbachev’s reforms therefore appear to be substantial and rapid on the noneconomic and foreign-policy fronts, limited and even inadequately conceived on the economic front, and guarded on the political front. By contrast, the Chinese reforms under Deng Xiaoping, while unyielding in politics, have been haphazard on the noneconomic front but substantive in the economic area. Is there a strategic design here?⁴ It is important to answer this question. It bears on whether perestroika can succeed and on the way it can be expected to develop.

    Since reforms of the perestroika variety are “systemic” in intent, and since Gorbachev is attempting...

  12. CHAPTER NINE How Long Will Gorbachev Last?
    (pp. 111-116)

    Everyone acknowledges that Mikhail Gorbachev has the leadership qualities for meeting the challenge of perestroika. His energy and charisma, his political savvy, above all his self-assurance as a leader in charge, are no longer in doubt. They were clearly visible at the June Party Conference. And yet the question persists: Will he last? It recurs every time the pot threatens to boil over, as during the El’tsin affair, the continuing Armenian-Azerbaijani clashes and, in particular, when the Ligachev-sponsored letter critical of the reform appeared inSovetskaia rossiia.

    A Soviet leader is made or unmade by the top brass of the...

  13. CHAPTER 10 Perestroika: Retrospect and Prospect
    (pp. 117-194)

    Since this book was completed in late 1988 and first published in May 1989, rapid changes have continued to occur in the Soviet Union. Eastern Europe has broken away, unfolding its own perestroika and glasnost’ with breathtaking speed. The principal questions today arise from the slower pace of reform on the Soviet scene. Has it bogged down? Or is a prudent course, more appropriate to Soviet realities, being pursued? These and other questions need to be addressed now to judge perestroika’s current health and to assess its future prospects.

    It is necessary for this purpose to link the salient points...

  14. APPENDIX ONE Illustrating the Economic Reform and Its Inadequacy
    (pp. 195-199)
  15. APPENDIX TWO Political Structure and Election Procedures
    (pp. 200-204)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 205-208)
  17. References
    (pp. 209-212)
  18. Index
    (pp. 213-221)