The Collapse Of State Socialism

In This Review

The Collapse Of State Socialism

By Bartlomiej Kaminski
Princeton University Press, 1991
264 pp. $39.50

Kaminski, a former Polish professor of economics and now an American professor of government, has written a theoretically elaborate and sophisticated explanation for the degeneration and disintegration of state socialism. Although Poland in the 1980s is the case in point, the theory is a general one. He starts from the conviction that the pre-1989 system was not merely a pathological type within a general political and economic universe, but a "unique symbiosis of the state with society and the economy," subject to laws of life and death unto itself. As for the theory, he argues that because the system is structurally incapable of generating economic growth and social benefit from private behavior, the state is left to do the job alone, something which for further structural reasons it cannot do efficiently. Indeed it is ultimately undone by a lethal paradox: "policy actions designed to improve performance only accelerate its decay." If that reminds the reader of another theory, one can be reassured that the case is developed with elegance and subtlety.

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