Populating No Man's Land. Economic Concepts of Ownership under Communism
This volume focuses on the concepts of ownership, the cornerstone of political economy in Soviet-type societies. The authors’ main objective is to contribute to the still unwritten chapter on collectivism in the history books of modern economic thought. They trace the lengthy evolution of economic ideas of property reform under communism leading from the doctrine of blanket nationalization to projects of moderate privatization in eight countries of Eastern Europe and China. The comparative analysis sheds light upon the tireless attempts of reform-minded economists in communist countries to populate the no man’s land of “social property” with quasi-private economic actors such as bodies of workers’ self-management and managers of state-owned companies. For a long time, these were expected to crowd out the communist nomenklatura from its actual ownership position without challenging the primacy of collective property rights. The fact that even the most radical reformers came to the conclusion that such surrogate owners would not be able to break the power of the ruling elite only on the eve of the 1989 revolutions demonstrates the immense strength of collectivist ideas.
The chapter traces the history and reconstructs the logic of ownership debates in Soviet economic thought. Despite crucial role that ownership received in the Soviet economic literature, this concept predominantly was conceived legally thus making economic discourse inconsistent and dogmatic. Attempts to overcome this inconsistency by the leading schools of Soviet economic thought are considered and related to the broder contexts of ideological, political and economic discourses.