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

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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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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Cook (political science, Brown U.) describes the contract by which the Soviet government provided economic and social security for workers in return for political compliance, and how the strength of that arrangement has all but stymied the kind of economic reform that has seemed so easy in other eastern European countries. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674828001
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/1993
  • Series: Russian Research Center Studies Series , #86
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 The Social Contract Thesis and Conceptions of State-Working Class Relations 1
2 Brezhnev's Welfare State: Delivering on the Social Contract 19
3 Full Employment, Price Stability, and Labor Quiescence under Brezhnev 54
4 Gorbachev's Reforms: The Critique of Brezhnev's Welfare State and Erosion of the Social Contract 82
5 Job Security, Medical Services, and Price Stability under Gorbachev 116
6 Soviet Workers and Their Discontents: The Emergence of Labor Activism and Unrest 150
7 Failure of the Social Contract: Labor and the Soviet Collapse 180
8 Labor, Democracy, and Reform in the Post-Soviet Transition 201
Notes 219
Index 265
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