In This Review

Without a Map: Political Tactics and Economic Reform in Russia
Without a Map: Political Tactics and Economic Reform in Russia
By Andrei Shleifer and Daniel Treisman
MIT Press, 2000, 223 pp

However desirable economic reforms may be, they usually leave some groups worse off -- especially those who benefited from the old regime. This book, a fruitful collaboration between a Harvard economist and a UCLA political scientist, examines economic reform in Russia during the 1990s by looking at the reformers' political success in either coopting or isolating important sources of opposition. They find that the reformers achieved more than they are usually credited with but had to make some unsavory compromises to dislodge groups hostile to reform. The reformers curbed inflation and privatized much of public-sector enterprise but failed to overhaul the tax system -- a failure that indirectly contributed to the 1998 financial crisis. Opposition to tax reform came from groups that had been coopted earlier, notably a coalition of provincial governors and large enterprises. The authors, both of whom had first-hand experience in Russian reform, provide informed and detailed support for their interpretation of events in one of the most dramatic social experiments of the 1990s: the transformation of a decaying, centralized authoritarian regime into a market-oriented democracy.