In This Review

Capital, Coercion, and Postcommunist States
Capital, Coercion, and Postcommunist States
By Gerald M. Easter
Cornell University Press, 2012, 248 pp.

“The revenue of the state,” as Easter quotes the political theorist Edmund Burke, “is the state.” Or, to put it more directly, the state is coercion in pursuit, one hopes, of the public good, and coercion requires financing. The way capital and coercion intersect constitutes the core of Easter’s explanation for why and how some postcommunist countries emerged with a “contractual” state and others with a “predatory” one. The first type, exemplified by Poland, checks the power of political leaders, disciplines the state’s use of coercion, protects private property, and diversifies wealth. The other type, illustrated by Russia, unfetters the arbitrary power of political leaders, indulges their use of coercion, blurs the line between public and private, and plays fast and loose with wealth and property. Whether a state follows the path to one type or the other depends heavily on the outcome of battles over taxation, Easter contends in this lucid, well-argued book. Tracing the complex interplay among politicians, bureaucrats, corporate interests, and labor in the struggle to shape the state’s capacity to finance itself is no simple task, and Easter does it deftly.