Socialism Betrayed? Economists, Neoliberalism, and History in the Undoing of Market Socialism

In: Historical Materialism
Besnik Pula Department of Political Science, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Through an historical analysis of the transnational practices of economists during the Cold War, Johanna Bockman rejects the narrative that the revolutions of 1989 represented the victory of ‘Western economics’, and especially neoliberalism, over ‘East-European socialism’. Rather, Bockman shows that the space of exchange, as well as policy experimentation in socialist states such as Yugoslavia and Hungary, led to the articulation of alternative, decentralised, ‘market socialisms’ from the 1950s up until the 1980s. Instead of operating within separate and incommensurable paradigms of ‘capitalist’ and ‘socialist’ economics, Bockman shows how neoclassical theory and its long tradition of comparing distinct economic systems became the central episteme allowing for the transnational exchange of ideas between economists of both the East and the West. This review-essay evaluates the book’s central claims but argues that the book stands on weaker ground when arguing that a reformed socialism was a viable option in Eastern Europe after 1989.

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