Not many American social scientists who write about the evolution of east European society in the last phases of socialism have gained their insights by catching a bus at 5:32 in the morning and heading off to a job as a lathe operator in a Hungarian machine shop. Burawoy, a Berkeley industrial sociologist, did that for four months in 1984, and then returned the next year to work five months in the Lenin Steel Works. He and his Hungarian colleague meld these reality-testing experiences into a lean, straightforward and large-spirited analytical framework that knocks the dazzle from much of the popular expectation in East and West.
The argument starts with the proposition that it will not do to compare the "ideology of capitalism-the efficiency of market competition based on private property and the freedoms of liberal democracy-with the realities of state socialism-the waste and inefficiency of planning and the repression of the one-party state." It concludes, for well-argued reasons, that in eastern Europe "the radiant future that is to be capitalism is no less utopian than the radiant future that was to be communism."