The Cold War was not solely about weapons and military threats; it was also a contest of economic strength. In the 1950's and 1960's many believed, in both East and West, that the Soviet Union presented a serious economic challenge to the capitalist West. We all know now that the economic challenge failed. But how and why did it fail? The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Economy draws on personal experience and literary sources, including memoirs, as well as available economic data and analyses, to illustrate the reality of everyday life and of economic policy making in the post-war Soviet Union. The author argues that the Soviet economic system was capable of producing economic growth, and did for most of its existence exhibit growth. But it revealed over a time a key weakness compared with capitalism: a systemic inability to cope well with technological change, which doomed the Soviet economy in the long-run. Moreover, 'success' in partially liberalising Soviet society, so that terror receded into the background, reduced the effectiveness of a top-downeconomic system that relied on authority and obedience.
Combining skilful economic, political and social analysis, The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Economy provides a fascinating insight into the decline of the Soviet Union. Philip Hanson is Emeritus Professor of the Political Economy of Russia and Eastern Europe at The University of Birmingham.
Philip Hanson is Deputy Director of the Centre for Russian & East European Studies, University of Birmingham.