The Soviet Social Contract and Why It Failed: Welfare Policy and Workers' Politics from Brezhnev to Yeltsin

The Soviet Social Contract and Why It Failed: Welfare Policy and Workers' Politics from Brezhnev to Yeltsin

by Linda J. Cook
     
 

ISBN-10: 0674828003

ISBN-13: 9780674828001

Pub. Date: 11/28/1993

Publisher: Harvard

As their woefully backward economy continues to crumble, much of the Soviet population remains indifferent, if not downright hostile, to the idea of reform. This phenomenon, so different from the Solidarity movement in Poland or the velvet revolution in Czechoslovakia, has been explained in terms of a “social contract”—a tacit agreement between the

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Overview

As their woefully backward economy continues to crumble, much of the Soviet population remains indifferent, if not downright hostile, to the idea of reform. This phenomenon, so different from the Solidarity movement in Poland or the velvet revolution in Czechoslovakia, has been explained in terms of a “social contract”—a tacit agreement between the post-Stalin regime and the working class whereby the state provided economic and social security in return for the workers' political compliance. This book is the first critical assessment of the likelihood and implications of such a contract.

Linda Cook pursues the idea from Brezhnev's day to our own, and considers the constraining effect it may have had on Gorbachev's attempts to liberalize the Soviet economy. In case studies on job security, retail price stability, and social service subsidies, Cook identifies points at which leaders had to make critical decisions—to commit more resources or to abandon other policies at significant cost—in order to maintain the contract. The pattern that emerges attests to the validity of the social contract thesis for the Brezhnev period. At the same time, Cook's analysis points to several important factors, such as the uneven distribution of benefits, that help explain why labor unrest and activism have varied dramatically from sector to sector in recent years.

Ultimately, these case studies reveal, particularly for the Gorbachev period, deep conflicts between the old contract and the requisites of economic reform. Cook extends her analysis into the Yeltsin period to show how the democratizing state dealt weakly with labor's demands, seeking to stabilize labor relations with an inappropriate corporate structure. In the end, mobilized labor contributed greatly to the pressures that undermined Gorbachev's regime, and remained an obstacle to economic reform through the early months of Yeltsin's Russia.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674828001
Publisher:
Harvard
Publication date:
11/28/1993
Series:
Russian Research Center Studies Series, #86
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1The Social Contract Thesis and Conceptions of State-Working Class Relations1
2Brezhnev's Welfare State: Delivering on the Social Contract19
3Full Employment, Price Stability, and Labor Quiescence under Brezhnev54
4Gorbachev's Reforms: The Critique of Brezhnev's Welfare State and Erosion of the Social Contract82
5Job Security, Medical Services, and Price Stability under Gorbachev116
6Soviet Workers and Their Discontents: The Emergence of Labor Activism and Unrest150
7Failure of the Social Contract: Labor and the Soviet Collapse180
8Labor, Democracy, and Reform in the Post-Soviet Transition201
Notes219
Index265

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