Gorbachev versus Deng: A Review of Chris Miller's 'The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy'
Journal of Economic Literature
US : American Economic Association
120 - 146 p.
Chris Miller’s book is a historian’s account of Mikhail Gorbachev’s efforts to save the Soviet economy. Miller focuses on the question of why Gorbachev did not follow Deng Xiaoping and did not manage to reform the economy. Miller argues that it was not for the lack of understanding (Gorbachev did invest in learning China’s approach to reform and did understand it well), nor for the lack of trying. In fact, Gorbachev did try to implement Deng’s agricultural and industrial enterprise reforms. However, Gorbachev’s reforms were blocked by powerful vested interests. An inability to tackle the agricultural and industrial lobbies eventually resulted in the bankruptcy and collapse of the Soviet Union. While I generally agree with the political economy argument, I discuss a number of alternative explanations. I also discuss sources of Gorbachev’s weak state capacity and offer an evaluation of Gorbachev’s and post-Gorbachev reform efforts and mistakes based on the political economy research carried out in the last twenty-five years.