Alienation and the Soviet Economy: The Collapse of the Socialist Era

University of New Mexico Press 1971, Holmes & Meier 1990

In 1971 this seminal book pointed out the fatal defects of Soviet economic organization that would lead to the collapse of the Soviet economy. Two decades later the book was reissued without a word changed with new introductions. Paul Craig Roberts tells how reality triumphed over Marxism, and he examines the implications for the future of Russia and eastern Europe. In 1971 Roberts created a firestorm among Sovietologists with his argument that the economies of the USSR and its East Bloc allies were doomed because their “planned” economies produced outputs that were worth less than the inputs. Roberts demonstrates that Soviet managers organize production by interpreting gross output indicators instead of price and profit movements, with the consequence that the Soviet economy is organized polycentrically like a market economy but devoid of economic rationality. Roberts shows that Marxist goals are expressions of passion for conviviality and represent not experience but inordinate aspirations. The reissue of this book in 1990 was welcomed by members of the Economic Institute of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences.


"Professor Roberts’ explanation of Soviet economic development is timely, and it fills a noticeable void in the existing literature. The book is beneficial reading for experts and non-experts alike who wish to understand the theoretical Marxian framework within which the Soviet economy grew and declined."

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, former National Security Advisor


"Alienation and the Soviet Economy analyzes the inherent weaknesses of Soviet planning, and has been widely praised by members of the Russian Academy of Sciences."



"Unlike any other book of the last twenty years, Alienation and the Soviet Economy reveals why central planning failed. This classic book provides the intellectual bridge between our past and our future."

YURI B. KOCHEVRIN, Member, Economic Institute, U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences


"The greatest value of Alienation and the Soviet Economy lies in the insistence that studies of the Soviet economy which focus on the process of central planning are detached from reality, and obscure, rather than advance our understanding of the system and its evolution. Fortunately, an increasing amount of research is being devoted to the development of explicitly or implicitly polycentric models of the Soviet economy, based on analyses of individual decision-making behavior. As it progresses, this work will increasingly vindicate Professor Robert’s insights into the nature of the system."



"The uncritical acceptance by Western observers of the supposed achievements brought about by central planning in the Soviet Union is subjected to a devastating critique in this short but powerful book . . . . Roberts notes that the true primary function of the planning bureaucracy is to direct its activities to overcoming the problems created by its own existence . . . a gem of a book."



"Rejecting common interpretations of the Soviet economic system, the author has produced a challenging if controversial book."



"The author’s ideas are novel and provocative, and his analysis is stimulating"



"It is easy to see that Roberts has written an extremely important and provocative book."



"In your theory of the polycentric organizational structure of the Soviet economy, you raise my ‘window’ to the rank of a new significant theorem, and prove in a manner which is a novelty for us how much better a view it gives for the understanding of a ‘Soviet-type’ economy."

TIBOR LISKA, Budapest, Hungary


"This book is appropriate for all levels of readers, including both specialists and non-specialists in the field of Soviet economics. After reading Alienation and the Soviet Economy, one student remarked that Professor Roberts was the first scholar he had ever read who explained the Soviet economy in its own terms, thus clarifying a number of problems which had previously perplexed him. Many established economists, historians, and Marxologists may prove less charitable, for Professor Roberts has defiled a whole herd of sacred cows. Even so, there is enough solid scholarshiop is this small book that its reputation will only profit from the controversy it will provoke."



"Alienation and the Soviet Economy is economic analysis in the grand manner. The book is a warning to future generations not to commit crimes in the name of socialism—to no purpose. The market rules, and presumably Marxian alienation continues to afflict us all."



"Alienation and the Soviet Economy of original scholarship exposes the ideological origins of socialist efforts at central planning and confirms that there is no alternative to the market for a modern economy."

OLEG BOGOMOLOV, Director, Institute of Economics, Russian Academy of Sciences; Member, Congress of People’s Deputies


"Alienation and the Soviet Economy points out with careful analysis that the root problem of the Soviet Union lay precisely in the ideas of Marx."



"Alienation and the Soviet Economy deserves renewed attention."



"Alienation and the Soviet Economy is a timely and highly prescient book takes on new significance with the collapse of Soviet-style economies throughout the world. It clearly merits the serious attention of a broad spectrum of educators, policymakers and interested laymen, and deserves a place in every respectable academic library and in many public collections as well."



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