A summary by Bob Allen Nuffield College 2005. This book undertakes a reassessment of Soviet economic history:. What institutions and policies worked? Which failed? Why? What lessons does Soviet history have to teach?. The reassessment is based on three axes:.
This inquiry leads to a more favourable assessment of Soviet performance than is usually reached. It is not an unqualified endorsement of the Soviet system:
in World-Historical Perspective
If the normal pattern applied, Russia would have remained poor
throughout the twentieth century.
This is not the usual question about the Soviet economy!
The late Imperial economy,
Agricultural expansion was the main cause of growth in the late Imperial economy.After 1896, wheat prices rose world-wide and wheat exports fuelled growth in Canada, Australia, Argentina, India, and Russia.
Standard of Living, 1928-40
These indicators show that the standard of living increased.
for those who moved
from the country to
That’s most city
residents in the
Conclusion: Soviet growth 1928-40 included rising consumption as well as soaring investment.This was a remarkable achievement.How was it accomplished?
Causes of rapid growth and rising living standards, 1928-39
Explaining Soviet growth must begin with agriculture, which was the largest sector of the economy in the 1920s.Detailed comparisons of European Russia with the Canadian prairies and US northern plains shows:
Russia was a classic labour surplus economy. The development
problem was increasing the capital stock to provide jobs for
The movement of labour from farm to factory was the motor
of Soviet growth, and these were the processes that accelerated
e is the fraction of producer goods output reinvested in that sector.
Note: e = .23 in all simulations.
Soviet Demographic History
Was the rise in GDP per head due to high mortality from
Stalinist repression, collectivization, and the Second World War?
The Soviet growth slowdown:
If the system was so good, why did it fail?
The Soviet economy acted ‘as if’ investment suddenly ran into diminishing returns when full employment was reached, but the appearance is illusory.
The early strength of the Soviet system became its great weakness
as the economy stopped growing because of the failure of
imagination at the top.
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