To enquire into social(ist) ownership might appear a scholastic exercise: why bother with concepts in the history of economic thought that owe more to ideology than to science, and which proved so inefficient? But granted that socialism (including all murky variants of market socialism) failed, and that property rights matter and need to be rigorously specified, widespread dissatisfaction with the results of three decades of neoliberal capitalism makes it imperative to question the dominant paradigm of privatization. This rich volume illuminates diverse alternatives across Eurasia. Notions of ownership and their institutionalization are of more than antiquarian interest as the fuzzy property relations of the recent past are revived in new forms of populist-nomenklatura ownership.
Populating No Man's Land is an outstanding contribution to the history and analysis of economic thought from within the socialist experiment of the 20th century that played out in East and Central Europe and the former Soviet Union and in China. The socialist experiment is one of the most ambitious projects in human history as it sought to radically transform the property rights and social relationships among individuals. It also failed miserably. But while there are general lessons to be learned from this failure, the key to really learning is to sort out the rhetoric from the reality in the variety of forms of property rights experiments that were tried during the history of socialism in practice. Janos Kovacs does an outstanding job of framing, contributing to and concluding the discussion on the history of the political economy of communism. Kovacs, and the other contributors to this volume, convincingly demonstrate that much of the "reform" talk was mere empty rhetoric, and the reality of real existing socialism was economic dysfunction and political privilege to those in power. It is a must read for all who want to understand the history of socialism.
The establishment of the communist regime, which prevailed in the Eastern Block and China in the twentieth century, was, arguably, the largest institutional experiment in human history. It destroyed private property rights in those nations, which created not only tragic consequences at that time but also long-lasting and deep social, economic, and political impacts to these nations. This volume is the first collective comparative studies of this important issue in the literature. Anyone who cares about institutions, property rights, socialism/communism, the Eastern Block and China, would benefit enormously from reading this book.