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Subversive Institutions: The Design and the Destruction of Socialism and the State
Subversive Institutions: The Design and the Destruction of Socialism and the State
By Valerie Bunce
Cambridge University Press, 1999, 324 pp
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Rare is the book that tackles the transcendent questions of an age. Rarer yet is the book that does so briefly. It may seem an obvious task to explain how the Marxist-Leninist regimes in Europe, including the Soviet Union, crumbled at roughly the same time, or why in some but not other instances a regime's collapse was followed by the disintegration of the state (Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, and Czechoslovakia). Obvious, yes, but difficult to a still greater degree. Bunce succeeds by fashioning a taut framework that explains both the long-term fundamental factors behind the system's march to doom and the immediate factors triggering its speedy collapse. True, such a retrospective insight is a prisoner of outcomes. Bunce's explanation centers on the strange fact that "the very design of these systems functioned over time to divide and weaken the powerful, homogenize and strengthen the weak, and undercut economic performance." Yet the special circumstances of the 1980s helped push these systems over the cliff. No argument this compressed will go unchallenged. But this book answers the question of our age and provides an eminently worthy target to shoot at.