A rigorous account of how the Soviet system fell apart. Using three different Soviet youth organizations as examples -- the Komsomol, military conscription, and the job assignment program -- Solnick illustrates how Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms rechanneled the self-seeking behavior of bureaucrats in directions that destroyed rather than revived Soviet institutions. He bases his compact and accessible explanation on recent general institutional theory. Seen from this angle, structures collapsed not because ideology failed, politicians quarreled, or interest groups rose to challenge sterile authority. Instead, the system imploded because bureaucrats at all levels made off with state assets at the first opportunity, hollowing out the state or "stealing" it. The theorizing may not be the average reader's cup of tea, but the underlying argument will fascinate most.