Populating No Man’s Land
János Matyas Kovács (Hrsg.)
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Sozialwissenschaften, Recht, Wirtschaft / Wirtschaft
This edited volume opening the new series Revisiting Communism: Collectivist Economic Thought in Historical Perspective focuses on the concepts of ownership, the cornerstone of political economy in Soviet-type societies. The authors’ main objective is to contribute to the still unwritten chapter on collectivism in the history books of modern economic thought. They trace the lengthy evolution of economic ideas of property reform under communism leading from the doctrine of blanket nationalization to projects of moderate privatization in eight countries of Eastern Europe and China.
The comparative analysis sheds light upon the tireless attempts of reform-minded economists in communist countries to populate the no man’s land of “social property” with quasi-private economic actors such as bodies of workers’ self-management and managers of state-owned companies. For a long time, these were expected to crowd out the communist nomenklatura from its actual ownership position without challenging the primacy of collective property rights. The fact that even the most radical reformers came to the conclusion that such surrogate owners would not be able to break the power of the ruling elite only on the eve of the 1989 revolutions demonstrates the immense strength of collectivist ideas. The authors coin the term “trap of collectivism” to warn those demanding nationalization or other forms of non-private ownership today: it is rather easy, even with the best intentions, to walk into this trap but it may take long decades to break out from it.