Syllabus Update

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The Soviet system represented a unique attempt to consciously redesign the whole society, inspired by some of the loftiest ideals of humanity. We study the origins of this peculiar organization, how it worked, and why it fell apart. Comparisons are drawn with other contemporary societies. The course consists of 1/3 political science and 2/3 economics.

Classes: Stokes 14, Tuesday and Thursday, 2:30 4:00 p. m.
Professor: Vladimir Kontorovich, Stokes 203c, tel. 1074, e-mail: VKONTORO.
Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 1:00-2:30 p. m., or by appointment. Feel free to call me at home (609-275-5011). Tell me the number you are calling from and I will call you right back.

Classes. In class I present a somewhat different approach from that found in the readings. You are responsible for both the lecture and textbook material, so regular attendance is essential.

Readings (capital letters in parentheses denote these readings in the Course Outline below).

a. Books on sale at the Bookstore:

(K) Janos Kornai, The Socialist System. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992.
This book originated with the author's undergraduate course at Harvard. It generalizes over all Soviet-type societies, bringing out the most important features in the system. The books focus is the economy.
(S) Shlapentokh, Vladimir, A Normal Totalitarian Society. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, Inc., 2001.

b. Additional readings are assigned in the Course Outline below. They can be found online (e-reserve, JSTOR, or the web address indicated in the syllabus).

Participation in classroom discussion. Read the assigned material by the date due. The readings will be discussed in class and points given for informed participation.

Term paper due last day of classes (see detailed description at the end of this document).

Final exam - exam week in December.

FINAL GRADE COMPOSITION: Final exam, 45%; Paper, 45%; Class participation 10%


I. WHY STUDY THE SOVIET SYSTEM? (K) Preface and Chapter 1. 9/5

(K) Chapter 2.

Marx, K., The Communist Manifesto, Introduction, Parts I and II

Lenin, V., The State and Revolution. Chapter III, Sections 2, 3, 4, 5.


1. Power

1.1 The official faade 9/14
Soviet Constitution from 1936, selected articles (Blackboard)

1.2 The actual structure of power
(K) Chapter 3; (S) Chapters 7, 8. 9/19, 9/21

1.3 Terror 9/26
Solzhenitsyn, A., Gulag Archipelago. Harper and Row, 1973. chapter 2,
The History of Our Sewage Disposal System.
(Blackboard; in two parts, pp. 24-57 and 58-92)

For a more up-to-date treatment of terror across all communist societies, I recommend:

Courtois, Stphane, et al., The black book of communism: crimes, terror, repression.
Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999. Foreword, Introduction,
and part I (on reserve).

1.4 Alternative models of Soviet power: controversy 9/28

Odom, William E., Soviet Politics and After. Old and New Concepts, World Politics,
vol. 45, Oct. 1992, through p. 93. (JSTOR)

Hough, Jerry F., Pluralism, Corporatism and the Soviet Union, in: Susan Gross Solomon, ed., Pluralism in the Soviet Union. New York: St. Martins Press, 1983. (Blackboard)

2. Legitimation: Ideology 10/3, 10/5

(K) Chapter 4;
(S) Chapters 2-5;
Meyer, Alfred, The Functions of Ideology in the Soviet Politics, Soviet Studies,
vol. 17, no. 3, Jan. 1966. (JSTOR)
Gerschenkron, Alexander, in: Alexander Eckstein, ed., Comparison of Economic Systems. Theo-retical and Methodological Approaches. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 19??.


1. Why plan? (K) chapters 5 and 6. 10/10

2. The main task of planning 10/10
Grossman, Gregory, Notes for a Theory of the Command Economy, Soviet Studies,
vol. 15, no. 2, Oct. 1963. (JSTOR)

3. Planning process 10/12, 10/24
(K) chapter 7.
Birman, Igor, `From the Achieved Level, Soviet Studies vol. 30, no. 2, April 1978.
Ellman, Michael, The Fundamental Problem of Socialist Planning, Oxford Economic
Papers, vol. 30, no. 2, July 1978. (JSTOR)

4. Enterprise Behavior (K) pp. 121-124. 10/26
5. Prices, Money, Finance (K) chapters 8, 11, 12. 10/31
6. Investment, Technological Change, and R&D 11/2
(K) chapter 9.
Gustafson, Thane, Why Doesnt Soviet Science Do Better Than It Does?, in: The
Social Context of Soviet Science. Linda L. Lubrano and Susan Gross Solomon,
eds., Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1980. (Blackboard)

7. Military industry 11/7
Gaddy, Clifford G., The Price of the Past. Washington, DC: The Brookings
Institution Press, 1996. Chapters 2 and 3. (Blackboard)


1. Overview 11/9
Katsenelinboigen, A., Coloured Markets in the Soviet Union, Soviet Studies, vol.
29, no. 1, Jan. 1977. (JSTOR)
(K) Chapter 19.
2. Labor market 11/14
(K) chapter 10.
Gregory, Paul R. and Valery Lazarev, eds., The economics of forced labor: the Soviet Gulag. Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 2003. Chapters 1 and 2. (Blackboard)

3. Consumer goods and services 11/16
Smith, Hedrick, The Russians. 1976. pp. 81-101. (Blackboard)


1. Growth, Efficiency, and Stability 11/21, 11/28
(K) pp. 186-202.
Bergson, Abram, The USSR Before the Fall: How Poor and Why, Journal of
Economic Perspectives vol. 5, no. 4, Fall 1991. (JSTOR)

2. Consumption, Income Distribution, and Public acceptance 11/30
(K) chapter 13; (S) chapter 10.


1. Attempts at reform (K) chapters 16, 17; (S) chapter 12. 12/5, 12/7
V. Kontorovich, Soviet Economic Reform, 2006.

2. Collapse (S) chapters 13, 14. 12/12, 12/14


1. Topic
You should investigate a topic which is not directly covered in this course. The idea is that you should be learning something new, not replicating what we are doing in class anyway. Pick any aspect of Soviet civilization and look into its economic and political dimensions. Students usually write about various sectors (healthcare, science, agriculture, banking, foreign trade, eco-nomic growth) or about particular periods in Soviet history (War Communism, NEP). The idea is to show how the Soviet economic and political system (about which we learn in class and in re-quired readings) manifested itself in the particular area, period, or aspect of society youve cho-sen for your paper.
Experience shows that this is extremely difficult to do for some aspects of the Soviet system that fall far outside the limits of this course. These concern the Soviet foreign policy; the Third International and other Communist parties; various progressive movements; Soviet-affiliated in-ternational organizations like the World Peace Council; and espionage. Thrilling as they are, these topics are unlikely to be suitable for a paper (but if you think otherwise, come talk to me).
Also note that our subject is the Soviet system, which expired in 1991. Things that have been going on within the territory it used to occupy after that date are outside of our subject, and thus unfit for a paper in this course.
2. How to search for sources
While there is some variation from topic to topic, very early sources (1950s and before) are generally not good. Post-1991 sources are essential you should try hard to find them, and gen-erally start with the latest sources. Just searching the book catalog is not enough: you should look for articles, as well. Data bases such as EconLit and JSTOR are helpful. Our librarians can sug-gest many more ingenious ways of finding out whats available. Another place to search for sources is in the bibliography for the relevant sections of Kornai (though this only goes through 1991). On some topics, I can help with finding sources, so ask me.
3. Appearance
All proposals and drafts are to be typed, double spaced and with standard margins. There should be a title, bibliography, and the pages should be numbered.
4. Schedule
Please come see me no later than September 26 to discuss the choice of topics. By October 5, I expect to receive a written proposal stating what you are going to write about, why it is an im-portant topic, what will be the main sections of your paper, and the annotated list of sources (i.e., with a statement of what each source contains) you are planning to use. Just saying the paper will have an introduction, a conclusion, and the middle part, and getting the titles of books off the TRI-POD will not do. There has to be evidence that youve started actual work on the paper and have some idea what you are doing. Please submit your proposals (and all the subsequent drafts) both on paper and as e-mail attachments.
The first draft will be due Nov. 9. It should present evidence of substantial progress in your work: understanding of the problem and its ramifications, use of sources, and at least some com-pleted sections. I will return the drafts with detailed comments. It is a good idea to continuously keep in touch with me as you write your paper. I will be happy to help with the sources and read and comment on additional drafts and outlines.
Failure to abide by any of the deadlines will cost you 5 points off the paper grade (graded on 100 scale).
Final version is due on the last day of classes (this is a college deadline). Please submit your drafts (the ones I returned, with my notes) together with the final version in paper form. Please also submit the final version as an e-mail attachment.