[OPE-L] Farm to Factory: A Reinterpretation of the Soviet Industrial Revolution

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Wed May 10 2006 - 18:55:47 EDT

via Antonio Pagliarone.  Sort of related to the "'socialisms' that
shouldn't be supported?" thread.  / In solidarity, Jerry

Farm to Factory:
A Reinterpretation of the Soviet Industrial Revolution
Robert C. Allen
Cloth | 2003 | $47.50 / 32.50 | ISBN: 0-691-00696-2
264 pp. | 6 X 9 | 34 line illus. 36 tables.
To say that history's greatest economic experiment--Soviet communism--was
also its greatest economic failure is to say what many consider obvious.
Here, in a startling reinterpretation, Robert Allen argues that the USSR
was one of the most successful developing economies of the twentieth
century. He reaches this provocative conclusion by recalculating national
consumption and using economic, demographic, and computer simulation
models to address the "what if" questions central to Soviet history.
Moreover, by comparing Soviet performance not only with advanced but with
less developed countries, he provides a meaningful context for its
Although the Russian economy began to develop in the late nineteenth
century based on wheat exports, modern economic growth proved elusive. But
growth was rapid from 1928 to the 1970s--due to successful Five Year
Plans. Notwithstanding the horrors of Stalinism, the building of heavy
industry accelerated growth during the 1930s and raised living standards,
especially for the many peasants who moved to cities. A sudden drop in
fertility due to the education of women and their employment outside the
home also facilitated growth.
While highlighting the previously underemphasized achievements of Soviet
planning, Farm to Factory also shows, through methodical analysis set in
fluid prose, that Stalin's worst excesses--such as the bloody
collectivization of agriculture--did little to spur growth. Economic
development stagnated after 1970, as vital resources were diverted to the
military and as a Soviet leadership lacking in original thought pursued
wasteful investments.
Robert C. Allen is Professor of Economic History at Oxford University and
a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He is the author of Enclosure and
the Yeoman.
"Farm to Factory . . . provide[s] new insights on several key issues and
presents a stimulating and wide-ranging perspective on twentieth-century
Soviet social and economic history."--Gijs Kessler, International Review
of Social History
"Robert Allen considers . . . contentions about the costs and achievements
of industrialization and the collectivization of agriculture in the
USSR."--Paul Josephson, Technology and Culture
"This well-written book will be quite controversial, finding as it does
something good about the Soviet system when all others are saying the
opposite. Allen's main conclusions--that the pre-revolutionary economy
would not have done well had it been continued, that collectivization was
not a disaster, and that there was considerable merit in Stalinist
investment strategies--represent a lone voice in the wilderness that needs
to be heard."--Paul Gregory, author of The Political Economy of Stalinism
and Before Command: The Russian Economy from Emancipation to Stalin
"A magnificent accomplishment. This is a major work of synthetic research,
one that will be disputed, debated, and discussed for many years to come.
It is a carefully crafted piece of painstaking quantitative research but
also a searching and provocative study of one of the most perplexing
episodes in European history. Allen's book will be read by
anyone--historian, social scientist, political analyst--interested in the
deep and complex issues posed by the greatest failed experiment in the
history of the human race."--Joel Mokyr, author of The Gifts of Athena and
series editor, Princeton Economic History of the Western World

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