University of New South Wales
I spent the summer months of 1996 and 1997 in Russia undertaking a sample survey of Russian farms (both the old collective and state farms, now privatized as "joint stock companies" and the private family farms which have appeared since 1992). The academic research had its problems and its interests and I and my Russian colleagues are now transcribing and analyzing the data we collected together, writing up our findings and preparing to add to the world's stock of learned journal articles. But, as is not uncommonly the case, by far the most fascinating aspect of these 5 months spent in Moscow and in the small towns and rural districts of the Vologda, Tver, Vladimir and Orel regions of European Russia was the opportunity it afforded to talk to a wide variety of Russian people about the changes through which their country is currently going. Inevitably once begun such conversations shaded easily into other matters - hopes and fears for the future, reflections on the past (and in particular of course on the Soviet past) and amateur philosophical reflection on history, ethics, human nature and so forth.
None of these conversations formed part of our formal research project (which was rather strongly economic in orientation), although I/we frequently found ourselves drifting into them in the course of conducting interviews about our more professional concerns. Nor, needless to say, did I, or we, (my Russian co-researchers) make any attempt to construct a "statistically typical" sample of informants or to survey their "attitudes" by any of the standard psychological methods. But nonetheless the research project upon which I was engaged took me from the seminar rooms of Moscow university to the pretty wooden houses of elderly peasant couples, and along the way brought me to local administrative offices, local factory floors ( everything from grain mills, to abattoirs, to breweries) as well as to a host of farms and fields. In short it was an experience of sociological and geographical width and variety even if not constructed in any systematic way. This piece is my attempt to share what I learnt - an attempt deliberately as informal and non-academic as the conversations themselves were.
The reason I think that sharing is important now is that contemporary Russia provides an opportunity unique in history to this point and - who knows? - possibly an opportunity which will never be repeated; the opportunity to speak to people who have lived in a society at least avowedly socialist about their first impressions of a change to a free market or capitalist system. What do they think of it? What do they like/dislike about it? What, if anything, surprises them about it? How does the actual experience match the expectations they may have had before it happened? I think I knew before I even began my study of Russia that this opportunity would be available and fascinating. Indeed it was part of my motivation for taking up Russian studies in mid-career. What I had not anticipated however - although perhaps I should have done - were two other discoveries. Firstly, the extent to which judgements of current "capitalist" realities are so deeply and emotionally intertwined with judgements of the Soviet past, so that as the former judgements change so do the latter. (Though of course any competent oral historian would have told me that). A currently popular Moscow joke captures the essence of the issue:
Q. "What have 7 years of capitalism already achieved that 70 years of communism
could not achieve?"
A. "They have made communism popular."
But secondly I had not anticipated the extent to which my conversations with Russians about capitalism, socialism, ethics, unemployment, job security, about the "free rider" problem under socialism, and so on, would induce continual self-reflection - upon my own long-held identity as a "socialist intellectual", and upon the deep (and unsuspected - by me) conflicts between this commitment and other values imbued simply by living nearly all my life in a capitalist society - commitments to "efficiency", "service" and so forth.
It emerged in fact that the confusions and uncertainties of the Russian people with whom I conversed fed into and stimulated an awareness of my own confusions. To be sure the roots of those confusions were very different - indeed diametric opposites. Much of what is described below can be understood as deriving from the naivety of Russian people about capitalism - a naivety to which 70 years of their recent history had condemned them. My confusions however derived (and derive - I still have them and am still trying to work through them) from a naive understanding of what the commitment to being a "socialist" entailed and entails and - deeper still I think - from simultaneous commitments to moral values and to a certain kind of economic theory and logic - commitments which, in the end, may simply be incompatible. But confusion, whatever its roots, is still confusion. It still feels the same, - it is always allied to anxiety and fear for example. And so my own confusion has, I hope, allowed me to empathise the deeper with the worries and anxieties of the people with whom I spoke. This article represents an attempt, above all, to express their confusion, and my own. Only secondarily is it an attempt to analyse or explain that confusion.
All good stuff as an introduction. But where to begin with an account of the conversations (and the confusions)? Perhaps with this: I and a Russian colleague are standing in a queue in Sheremedsovo airport in Moscow. We are waiting to collect some luggage I have left in the left luggage office. Once we have collected it my colleague is going to accompany me with it to the gate and see me off. The queue is'nt long, but it is very slow moving. It is very slow moving because the two women and one man behind the counter spend more time chatting to each other and exchanging surly or irritated remarks with the clients than they do getting the luggage. After we have been there 20 minutes and moved forward scarcely at all, my irritation starts, as usual, to mount. I complain to my colleague (in English). He laughs and endeavours to sooth me by making a remark, variations of which I have heard from him on several occasions. "Gavin. You must understand. The luggage office is here for the luggage office workers. Not for the customers".
And this; a closely related (although it took me a while to recognize it as such) if very different and very differently situated conversation. I am being shown around a meat factory in the urban centre of a small rural district of Vladimir region. The factory is in a state of almost complete collapse - the equipment is antique, conditions are dark, damp and insanitary and (for reasons not to be gone into here) - demand for the factory's output has almost completely disappeared. One worker (a middle aged woman) confides to me that closure is immanent. At first she is diffident, apologetic - "you see how we have to work - like pigs in shit." Then suddenly she becomes angry: "How will we live if I lose this job? My husband already hardly earns anything. They say nobody will buy the meat. But is that my fault? Is it my fault that we make such awful stuff? I work just as hard as I've always done. Why should I lose my job, why should we lose our jobs, just because nobody will buy?"
And this. A collective farm chairman is proudly explaining his new labour regime to us. He outlines briefly the "featherbedded" (as westerners would say) days of the late Soviet period - the generous price subsidies, the virtually unlimited supplies of machinery, fertilizer and other inputs provided on credits often not repaid, the guaranteed basic wages and easily earned bonuses of the workers. Now all that has changed, he avows. Desperately needed inputs have to be earned, not dispensed by the state, (and even then are not available in the quantity and quality needed). A tight labour regime is in place now, he says. Workers are paid strictly by results and heavy fines are levied for non-performance or poor quality work. The "drunks" and "layabouts" in the work force have been got rid of. I and my colleagues seize on this.
Q. "So you have been sacking workers?"
A. "Oh yes."
Q. "And they have left the farm."
A. "Left? No not left. They are still living here - in their flats and things.
Q. "But surely those flats are only for workers on the enterprise?"
A. "Yes. But of course they may come back."
Q. "Come back?!"
A. Yes, if their behaviour improves. Only if it improves."
Q. "But how will you know that it has improved?"
A. "Well, they would have to give firm undertakings, and of course we would check up on them."
Q. "But anyway, you said you did not need these workers, that they were layabouts and drunks. Why take them back if you don't need them?"
A. "They have to live don't they? I mean people have to live. Even if they are drunks they have to live. They have children. You can't let people starve."
There were many similar conversations like this with many farm and factory managements. The net result of these conversations was the discovery that in a situation of slump many Russian farm and enterprise managers still prefer (despite initial rhetorical avowals - perhaps put on primarily for my benefit as a westerner) to neglect all forms of capital investment and to give priority to maintaining employment and paying wages, even if doing so consumes virtually all their residual revenue.
But the question is, is all this wrong? And I mean a number of things by that question. I mean:
(1) was the meat factory worker wrong to find it shocking and angering that "mere" lack of demand should be a reason for her sacking? A free market economist might snigger at her naivety, but should that lead us to admire his/her greater command of economic logic or to despise him/her for their hopelessly corrupted moral sensibility? Moreover,
(2) are farm and other enterprise managers wrong to continue to treat their enterprises primarily as sources of social security for themselves and their workers rather than as cost minimizing profit maximising entities? (In answering this question bear in mind that the present Russian state does not have the resources to fund an even minimal social "safety net" for the unemployed). But I also mean,
(3) is it (was it) wrong that "the luggage office was for (i.e. was for the benefit of) the luggage workers" (or "the road for the road police", or " steel works for the steel workers" as the same Russian colleague also used to say).
The third question is a particularly interesting and significant one. A conventional answer is to say that it was right for the workers in question, but very wrong for the consumers of their product or service. Because in an economy with something approaching absolute employment security, and especially if is also an "economy of shortage", (as the old Soviet economy was) consumers cannot exert any influence over the behaviour of producers, and above all cannot do anything effective to get workers to provide goods or services of the type and quality that they want and need. In short, absolute employment security - guaranteed by the absence of competition and by shortage - continually sacrifices the interests of citizens as consumers to their interests as producers and workers.
But now, after the experience of "post-Soviet Russia" (not before it) I am still tempted to ask, "yes, but does any of that mean that absolute employment security is wrong (morally speaking)?" The argument above may show that making employment absolutely security has economic and social costs as well as benefits, but it does not tell us whether the costs outweigh the benefits, or even how to assess the different costs and benefits against each other.
Another conversation and another setting comes to mind. A good Russian friend is a relatively recent immigrant to Australia. She and her husband were highly qualified electronics engineers fleeing, with their two young children, the privations of early nineties Russia. Now she works part-time, and insecurely, in a Sydney bank. She is by nature highly conscientious and finds herself chronically overworked and stressed in an understaffed and high pressure service environment. We are discussing her current and past employment (in St Petersburg) and she says to me, in complete and genuine bafflement and exasperation "How can they (the bank) not see that no one can do their best work if they are not secure?!" How indeed? At that moment I have an irresistable urge to introduce her to a raft of labour economists. But I also think, "ah yes, but Valya is an extremely conscientious person. She feels stressed because she is trying to give the best service she can in an environment which makes that almost impossible. But given that she is that conscientious, she would probably give of her best whether she was in secure employment or not."
But even if this is so, it is still significant. (There are lots of conscientious people in Russia , like everywhere else). It may even be theoretically significant for labour economists and their too glib and generalized ideas about the effects of "incentives". They may simply be in the illegitimate business of trying to turn psychological or personality variables into economic or monetary ones.
But though many Russian people may abhor unemployment and job insecurity and be morally shocked by their human consequences, they are not (in fairness to the same labour economists) indifferent to incentives. Indeed, when asked to give a definition of "fairness" or "justice" very many of the people I met gave answers of the form "everyone getting what they genuinely earn" or "everyone getting what they deserve", and the most common complaint about the Soviet period, even among those who remember it (now) with affection and nostalgia, is that "everybody got paid the same whether they worked or they didn't" and that that was - by the above criterion - unjust or unfair. In other words, many Russian people whom I met concurred with the view that the central economic and social (not political) problem of the Soviet system was the "free rider" problem. However, conversations with them also reminded me that
(1) free riding is always an activity of the other. That is, all my informants were, by self-identification anyway, the freely ridden upon rather than the said noxious riders. Also
(2) they seemed to want the problem dealt with by greater rewards to the deserving and hard working (i.e. themselves) rather than by greater punishments of the idle and undeserving (the others). This of course gells in with attitudes toward employment security and peoples need "to live" outlined above, but beyond that I am not quite clear what it shows, except that they are very human.
Many of these reflections lead directly to questions about moral relativity. It is certainly a persuasive and popular approach to the kind of questions I have posed above simply to refuse to answer them as posed. That is, it can be argued to be a nonsense to say that "absolute employment security" is - "in the abstract" - either "right" or "wrong". Rather, or so it can be argued, moral judgement must depend on the broader context. That is, if "you" are running an entirely closed economy, trading in only minimal and highly controlled ways with the outside world, refusing to let "your" citizens travel to that world, and absolutely minimizing financial flows in and out, then "of course", it can be said, the "disincentive" effect of guaranteed full employment can be borne, because enterprises do not have to cope with competition from more efficient producers. But once abandon the closed economy and the only effect of trying to retain such employment (and the social security based upon it), will be that enterprises will be driven out of business either by foreign competition (imports) or by other domestic producers who have made the necessary changes required to lift efficiency. Morally speaking a way of expressing this might be to say that in endeavouring to help people in the short term by maintaining the old securities ("doing good"), you will only sacrifice their welfare even more totally in the longer run ("doing bad"). So better to grasp the economic and moral nettle straight off and minimize the bad thereby. More broadly, what was "right" before (here "right" being understood as something like "economically or socially functional") is "wrong" now (meaning "now economically and socially disfunctional").
I don't buy that argument,(that is, I don't buy it as moral philosophy, whatever its merits as economic theory) but many Russian people, and especially many intelligent and sensitive Russian managers (- they exist -) and workers do. It is what they mean when they say "The old system has gone." , " It will never come back." "We have to face it." But as well as being a recognition of a new reality and the "hard truths" which that reality enforces ("compete or die") such sentiments are also a linguistic sigh for what has been lost, and simultaneously a realization (hopeless, for after the fact) that there were some things positive to lose, some things to be regretted and longed for in the old system. (For many of these same Russian people may have doubted that at the time). In fact retrospective regret for at least some parts or aspects of a system which, only a handful of years ago, one wanted desperately to see the end of (and which one may never want to see return in toto, even now) is one powerful source of the widespread emotional and moral confusion in present-day Russia.
It is also the core of my confusion. For in common with the leaders of the Soviet Union themselves ("We will bury you" - Kruschev) I long thought that it was possible - through "socialism" - to create a society that was at once more materially productive and efficient than capitalism and more socially just. I think now that I - just like them - was deluded. Numerous "reactionary" critics of the Soviet Union were right. That society was not, and could never have been, as "efficient" or (economically) "productive" as the capitalist west. For it lacked the one essential element recognized by all economists - including Marx - necessary to make it so - competition among economic enterprises. Thus all its attempts to out-produce the west were both fruitless and productive of even more environmental damage than that being generated by its rival. But what if it had opted to sell itself - both externally and to its own people - not as "more efficient and more just", but as "more just albeit less efficient". What if the leaders of "actually existing socialism" and we "independent" socialist intellectuals in the west (for we were always much more in the same boat than we recognized and are now - therefore - washed up on much the same shore) had far more openly and honestly recognized that there are unavoidable "trade offs" between efficiency and humanity in the organization of economic life. What if we had openly said, "come with us. Life will be distinctly mediocre in a material sense, and there will be limits on travel outside the system, but there will be much more security, much less stress and more time for enjoying yourself and not working - even when you're at work!" Would this have sold the product better?
Probably not - or not at any rate to the poor people of the world. But it would have been a lot more accurate and honest, and it might sell in the future to the "unpoor" of the world - especially if they have to pay for their prosperity with ever greater insecurity and stress. In short; what price efficiency? (And that is not simply, or even mainly, an economic question).
And finally. Another thing Russian people talk a lot about now is money. I mean that in two senses. Firstly, and obviously, they talk about money now in precisely the same way as "we" do. How to get it, how to get more of it, what they can afford to buy, what they would like to be able to afford to buy, and so on. But secondly they also - and very interestingly - talk about the fact that they do talk about money now, and that they never used to. "We never talked about money in the old days. It wasn't so important." "I never used to think about money much then. It couldn't get you much, and I had all I needed". "People do nothing but talk about money now. You can't do anything without money." All the above are genuine verbatim quotations from conversations in 1996 and 1997 and there were many more like them.
The reason for such remarks of course lie in the different role played by money in the old Soviet system and in the new market system. These differences were many and various, but the one that ordinary Russian people note most was that "in the old days", a large part of a family's income was provided direct and "in kind" by the state - "free" education, "free" health care, almost "free" housing, "almost free" public transport, sporting and cultural facilities, highly subsidised food, clothing, water, domestic energy etc. But now, with the subsidies on all these items much reduced or removed entirely and real wages also much reduced since 1991, virtually all Russian people find themselves forced to think much more insistently, anxiously and exactly about monetary income and its relation to expenditure. Mr Macawber's logic has suddenly intruded into Russian life in a large way, and many Russians resent it. Many poor people find it stressful and threatening, some intellectuals (some of my colleagues - not all) find it demeaning.
But what do I find it? Well part of me responded as the cynical and bitter western realist - "welcome to the real world folks". But another part responded as an old leftie. One of the oldest and most utopian promises of socialism was the "abolition of money". Such ( very limited) attempts as have ever been made to realize this promise in practice have unfailingly ended in farce. The USSR did not abolish money. It tried (or it tried at one time) to abolish monetary pricing but this too failed - a failure gleefully observed and celebrated by many a western marketeer. But although the USSR did not succeed in abolishing money, it did succeed in very much marginalising money, and monetary concerns, in the lives of many ordinary Soviet citizens. Arguably this too was a human achievement of some significance, albeit one with some economic costs (of course - but so what?).
There is much more I could say (about socialism's old promise to treat people as the "ends" of the economic process and not as pure "means" - and what Russian people might have to tell us about that) but I have already spoken too much. For I wanted to make this piece much more of a vehicle for Russian voices than for my own. I will therefore finish with one such voice. Her name is Tat'yana Vladimirova Proxhodova. She is 36 years old and she is (or was when we spoke to her - these things are very unstable) the Chief Agronomist of the former kolkhoz "Bolshevik" in the Komeshka district of Vladimir region. She said this to us on the 7th September 1996:
Of course the Party is on its knees now. But that is no bad thing. It can come back from that. At least in the old days when it had some power people knew where to go to for some redress for their problems. Now they haven't got the faintest idea.
What criticisms would I make of the Party? There was an enormous chasm between the top and the bottom. People at the bottom worked. People at the top - we had no idea what they did...
I didn't vote for anybody in the last Presidential election. Yeltsin is worn out. He is like Brezhnev was in his last years. Zhuganov talks like a man from the past and Lebed compromised himself when he joined the government. Also, all these people who are now supposed to be democrats and reformers, they are all ex-communists. How can you be a communist one moment and a democrat the next? I don't trust anybody...
And they tell such lies about communism. I had a conversation with my daughter - she's eleven years old - that sums up the whole thing. She said "Who are you going to vote for Mama? You can't vote for the communists. They are for war, they started the war in Chechnya. You should only vote for Yeltsin Mama", she said. Then she said. "Why are you always worrying about money Mama?" I said, "How can we get anything from the shops without money? I have to have money. That's why I worry. For you, as well as for me". She said, "you ought to be able to go to the shop and get things without any money, then you wouldn't have to worry." I said, "that's just what the communists always wanted". She looked at me with complete amazement. She's so ignorant about politics. The way the world is now makes her ignorant. There is no proper education for children now. The schools are collapsing....
And that reminds me. At least in the old days our young people had some ideals to believe in. The leaders might have betrayed them, but at least they were ideals. They encouraged you to think of something else other than yourself and what you wanted. Personally I don't think it matters much where young people get ideas and ideals - from communism, from religion, it's all the same to me - just as long as they have some - something to give them hope and belief for the future. But now, just look at our young people - no jobs, no hope, no thoughts in their head - just smoke and drink and depravity and discos... I don't want to go back to the old days, but nobody can tell me it was all bad...That is the problem with us Russians, we go from one extreme to another. After the Revolution everything that had ever gone before was supposedly terrible. Now with perestroika everything about communism is supposed to have been terrible. But it wasn't. Life's not like that, not extremes... In fact I think.....
And she went on and on. But I will have to stop her now. She has said more than enough.
Although nearly four years has passed since the completion of the fieldwork on which the above reflections are based, little of any significance has changed in the Russian countryside or indeed in Russia. After a severe exchange-rate induced recession in 1998-99, the economy has recovered somewhat, registering small positive rates of growth over the last two years. But this growth has yet to have any discernable impact on the domestic agricultural economy. And meanwhile, both Russian and foreign sources continue to emphasize the ever growing dependence of the Russian population on subsistence production from household and "dacha" plots, the ever rising morbidity and mortality rates among Russian people as a whole and indeed the absolute shrinkage of a population whose birth rate has continued to drop as its mortality rate (especially among men) accelerates with every passing year. It is small wonder, in these circumstances that Russian opinion poll evidence shows ever rising levels of nostalgia for pre-reform days and majorities of respondents believing that "life was better under communism".
However, the same poll evidence also shows that even the most gloomy and dissatisfied of Russian citizens have no desire to see the actual return of the communist system (or at least that only quite small minorities of respondents express such a wish), and it is interesting to speculate on the reasons for this apparent anomaly. My own view is that it is the politics, rather than the economics of communism which the majority of Russians are still glad has gone and have no wish to see return. That is, the aspect of communism which was most widely disliked, was the single party monopoly of political power, together with all the restrictions on political choice and freedom of (at least open) expression that followed from that monopoly. Whilst I was in the field I often heard Russians express views which amounted to the wish that the economic securities of old could have been maintained, but accompanied by a democratic, open, competitive political system. And I very much suspect that the proportion of Russian people sharing that wish has probably increased since 1997.
Of course I share with the vast majority of western observers (but with only a small minority of Russians) the view that such a combination always was and always will be an impossibility. That is, I take the view that the economic securities of communism, which so many Russians now retrospectively value, could not, and cannot, be maintained except through a single party political system, effectively monopolised by state communists or socialists. And conversely, I also hold that once such a political monopoly was ended then, in Russian conditions, an endemic economic insecurity and (indeed) widespread impoverishment was the inevitable result (at least in the short to medium term) of the "crash" introduction of a competitive market economy.
That the one thing - the one combination of circumstances - that so many Russian people want, and wanted, is the one thing that they cannot have, is of course just one more element in the confusion - and tragedy - that is contemporary Russia. And for good or ill I am now convinced that the only way out of that confusion and tragedy now, for Russia, is to wade through the massive social costs and make a competitive market economy - a capitalist economy - work in Russia. I should be clear what I mean in saying that however. I mean only that Russians have now effectively closed the door to all options except the capitalist one, so that in that sense they must make it work if their country is to have any future at all. It does not necessarily mean that I think they will - actually - make it work. That seems to me an altogether more open question.
But there is a sense in which these issues - the issues of what the immediate and long term future may hold for Russian people - are marginal to the central theme of this article. For, as I realise in retrospect, the prime concern of these thoughts is not the history or future of Russia at all, but the history and future of "our" western capitalist societies.
For it can scarcely be denied that the central driving dynamic of those societies is the obsessive dispute of ever greater economic productivity and efficiency, but a pursuit which is conducted without any - or with hardly any - public consideration or debate about the ultimate point or purpose of its achievement.
And yet neither in the civil societies nor in the intellectual universes of the West is their any shortage of reflections upon such issues. For on the one hand it is still a common conventional wisdom in our societies that the pursuit of higher income or greater material consumption is a means to an end (say the end of personal or domestic happiness) than an end in itself. And, on the other hand, Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill are just two of many western thinkers who have argued that a materially prosperous societies can - as a very result of that prosperity - devote themselves to objectives beyond that prosperity - and should indeed do so.
Now I do not wish too deny that there are formidable problems inherent in the very notion of "societal" preferences here, and whether they are conceived in Marxian or Millian ways. Rational choice economic theory is just the most recent body of theory to question whether it makes sense to talk of "societal" preferences at all (as against the very varied preferences of individuals) and to suggest, indeed, that one of the great strengths of "free market" economic systems is that they allow for radical differences in individual preferences rather than trying to force them into any single "societal" mold.
And yet despite such celebrations of (primordial, irreducible) diversity of individual lifestyle'preferences in modern capitalist societies, two, equally ungainsayable, facts stand out against this alleged diversity. On the one hand, as I have said, many people in western societies feel increasingly uneasy that economic growth and efficiency imperatives which were/are supposedly means to ends, even for individuals, have become "ends in themselves", and ends, moreover, that appear to have ever increasing costs to those individuals (in terms of both personal stress and the quality of their social and familial relationships) as well as ever-rising environmental costs. And, on the other hand, Russian citizens emerging from a system which - quite unintentionally I think - provided a high degree of basic economic security without the occupational "effort" and "stress" demands that a market economy places on individuals, are (at the moment at least - I am sure it will be an historically transitory phenomenon) highly attuned both to the loss of that security and to the psychological and other insecurities which are the ever-present "flip side" of the opportunities offered by the market.
I have already said that I believe that Russian citizens, having now no way back to communism (even if they wanted it - which most do not) are condemned, for good or ill, to live in a new capitalist world and to learn the behaviors and resiliences necessary to prosper in that world. But the question is, are "we" who live in societies which are, by any historical criterion, already unprecedentedly materially prosperous, also so "condemned"? Or do we have the choice of making our patterns of production and consumption servants of our social and emotional needs rather than driving masters of them. The answer to this question is, I think, yes we are so condemned so long as we live in a world capitalist system which has competitive efficiency at its centre. For so long as we live in such a context the choice of any minority (of individuals, of groups, even of whole societies) to live by different imperatives, is a choice for rapid (albeit comparative) impoverishment. But what if a large majority of human kind as a whole decided to live by different imperatives - which means decided to abolish, or at any rate radically amend, the competitive market system itself? What if indeed? And I seem to remember that Karl Marx himself also posed that question, and posed it, as it must be posed, as a universal - as a global - question. The question of course remains unanswered, and is probably unanswerable. But despite that, the question will I am sure never go away - and whatever assertions may be heard about the "death" of Marxism or socialism. Or rather, it will never go away so long as a competitive market capitalist economy exists. For it is, in a certain sense, the very experience of living in the world that that economy creates which continually gives rise to the question. Karl Marx, one might say, simply wrote the question down in a memorable way. He certainly did not originate it.
|Gavin Kitching is Associate Professor of Politics at the University of New South Wales. He is the author of six books, of which the latest, Seeking Social Justice Through Globalisation: escaping a Nationalist Perspective was published by Penn State Press (Pennsylvania) in December 2001. He has worked in the fields of African Studies and Development Studies as well as Russian Studies and has undertaken fieldwork in the rural areas of Kenya, Tanzania and Brazil, as well as in Russia. This article is the result of Russian fieldwork undertaken in the summers of 1996 and 1997. More narrowly academic publications from this research have appeared in the Journal of Peasant Studies in 1998 and 1999 and in the Journal of Agrarian Change in January 2001. See also his earlier contribution to Mots Pluriels.|