Past Winners of the Ed A Hewett Book Prize
- 2012 — Winner: Carol Leonard for Agrarian Reform in Russia: The Road from Serfdom (Cambridge University Press)
- 2011 —
- 2010 —
- Winner: Keith A. Darden, for Economic Liberalism and Its Rivals: The Formation of International Institutions Among the Post-Soviet States (Cornell University Press)
- Honorable Mentions:
- 2009 — Winner: Lewis H. Siegelbaum, for Cars for Comrades: The Life of the Soviet Automobile (Cornell University Press)
2012 Winner: Carol Leonard for Agrarian Reform in Russia: The Road from Serfdom (Cambridge University Press)
Carol Leonard's ambitious monograph explores the political economy of agrarian reform in Russia over the 150-year period bracketed by the emancipation of the serfs and the recent era of market liberalization. Both broad and deep in coverage, it is the sort of effort that could only have been undertaken by a scholar fully comfortable with archival texts and modern economic theory. Leonard gives equal attention to three periods: the era of imperial reforms from emancipation to Stolypin, the years of Soviet rule from the NEP experiment through collectivization to Gorbachev, and the two most recent post-Soviet decades. In so doing, she identifies common patterns in the motivation for and response to changes in agrarian policy. Across the generations, officials concerned with the country's relatively poor agricultural performance pushed through reforms whose scale and impact was often limited by the opposition of vested interests. The effects of reforms have thus often not been immediate but have only become apparent over longer periods of time. Leonard's book will stand for generations to come as an important reference for scholars of Russia's historical trajectory.
2011 Winner: Timothy Frye for Building States and Markets after Communism: The Perils of Polarized Democracy (Cambridge University Press).
Frye uses both quantitative and narrative data from the former Soviet bloc to throw new light on the pace and consistency of post-communist reforms. He shows that reforms were faster and more consistent when the political system was democratic. He shows, however, that the benign influence of democracy was conditional on low political and socio-economic polarization. In less polarized democracies, governments built state capacity and competitive markets at the same time. With more polarization, governments faced shorter time horizons and responded to strong incentives to weaken the state and undermine competition in order to reward supporters. Polarized democracies pursued reforms at a slower pace, with less perseverance and more wavering, less generous assistance for losers, and worse economic outcomes. The outcomes of polarized democracy were better than those of autocracy, but worse than those of democracies that were less divided.
Building States and Markets works on many levels. Elegant modelling is blended with sophisticated econometrics. Cross-country data are filled out with detailed case studies; micro-level data from business surveys complement the macro-level inferences. It considers explicitly the potential endogeneity of polarization on reforms and makes a compelling argument about the socialist-era roots of reform-era polarization. Building States and Markets is highly original and will undoubtedly influence the literature on economic reform and state building for many years.
Honorable Mention: Yoshiko Herrera for Mirrors of the Economy: National Accounts and International Norms in Russia and Beyond (Cornell University Press).
Herrera sets out to explain the speed and comprehensiveness of Russia's adoption of GDP accounting in the 1990s, a change that was critical for economic measurement and policy evaluation. It is argued that the rapid transition of Russia's national accounts should be a surprise, given that most other Russian reforms were incomplete, contested, or compromised. Her book proposes an innovative explanation in terms of conditional norms. In the belief system of Soviet statisticians, a socialist economy was best evaluated by material product accounting, and market economies by GDP. When Russia became a market economy, this conditional norm enabled them rapidly to adjust beliefs to new conditions. A textured narrative of rapid organizational reform carried out by insiders, Mirrors of the Economy is thoroughly grounded in the contemporary and historical literatures, complemented by many interviews with Russian principals.
2010 winner: Keith A. Darden, for Economic Liberalism and Its Rivals: The Formation of International Institutions Among the Post-Soviet States (Cornell University Press)
Darden sets out to explain the policy choices that the post-Soviet states made in the international economic arena in the 1990s. He identifies three mutually exclusive paths that led respectively to WTO membership, reintegration into the CIS region, and unilateralism or autarky. The book provides a comprehensive narrative of these policy choices for each country, based on official documentation and statistics, memoirs, and more than two hundred first-hand interviews with officials. This alone is a major contribution.
At the book's core is a substantial theoretical innovation. How important are ideas and ideologies in international policy choices? Social scientists have debated the importance of ideas relative to the influence of economic structures and interests, and national identities and feelings. Darden rejects an either/or approach. Instead, he argues that national elites cannot establish their identities or identify their material interests, except through the medium of "causal ideas" or models of the world that link alternative policies causally with possible social and economic outcomes.
Because the state of the world is intrinsically uncertain, Darden argues, our knowledge of past and present causation is always imperfect. As a result, causal ideas are not systematically selected for validity. Instead they are selected by historical factors, including sometimes by accident. In his book, Darden goes on to identify the national policy making circles in each country. He develops usable measures of the variation in their causal ideas. He successfully tests the contingent selection of ideas and their systematic influence on their international policy choices.
Economic Liberalism and its Rivals is an excellent and incisively written contribution to our subject. The panel was hugely impressed by the broad scope of its topic and the high quality of the investigation, which has clear significance for history and social science beyond the limits of our region.
2010 honorable mentions:
Sean McMeekin, History's Greatest Heist: The Looting of Russia by the Bolsheviks (Yale University Press)
The economic history of Russia's revolution and civil war tends to take for granted the Bolshevik nationalization of the "commanding heights" of industry and banking. Less attention has been paid to the expropriation of Russia's upper and middle classes. Sean McMeekin fills this gap with a powerful narrative of bank robbery and burglary, and an account of the economic and social consequences of these actions. History's Greatest Heist uncovers a wealth of previously unknown information on how the Bolsheviks financed their operations. This well-researched book provides an object lesson in the ruination of economic and social values that results from confiscation: the loss to Russian society was far greater than the gain to the Bolsheviks.
Grigore Pop-Eleches, From Economic Crisis to Reform: IMF Programs in Latin America and Eastern Europe (Princeton University Press)
From Economic Crisis to Reform is a fascinating contribution to the political economy of crisis adjustment in emerging economies. It compares the impact and implementation of IMF crisis adjustment programs in Latin America in the Cold War and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Grigore Pop-Eleches has combined theory with econometrics and case studies to produce a work of unusual breadth and depth. Among the findings are that economic crisis tended to sharpen domestic partisanship in Latin America in the Cold War, while softening it in Eastern Europe in the post- Soviet transition; debtor interests were less important in East European crisis adjustment than they were previously in Latin America. A substantive work of political economy, From Economic Crisis to Reform deftly utilizes the contrasting experiences of Latin America and Eastern Europe to illuminate broader lessons of IMF engagement applicable to all regions.
2009 winner: Lewis H. Siegelbaum, for Cars for Comrades: The Life of the Soviet Automobile (Cornell University Press)
The motor car was a central innovation of the twentieth century, transforming consumption, production, and the organization of businesses and households worlwide. In Cars for Comrades, Lewis Siegelbaum tells how Soviet socialism struggled with the motor car, trying to balance freedom and private property with state planning and Soviet rule. The prospect of widespread car production and ownership put huge demands on resources and regulation in the fields of Soviet production and technology, transportation networks, urban planning, and distribution. The centrality of the motor car to the twentieth century makes for an original investigation that yields new insights into the Soviet Union’s modernization processes and development choices.
Cars for Comrades is classic historical research, based on both archives and field work. It is supported by a wealth of official documents and statistics, combined with personal narratives, anecdotes, imagery, and literary allusion. For ordinary citizens the automobile was, in Siegelbaum’s words, “an object of individual desire ... a mobile private space.” “The desire for car ownership knew no bounds”; the result was an inescapable “tension with the collectivist ideology of the Communist Party.” Soviet private car ownership remained a bittersweet experience to the end, since the personal freedom offered by the automobile in richer market economies rested on a supportive web of laws, licenses, and markets in spare parts, services, fuels, and second hand motors to which the Soviet authorities could not fully commit. Siegelbaum cites an observer’s remark: “In Russia ... owning a car brings joy twice in an owner’s life—when it is bought and when it is sold. In between there is only torture.” Collective-ownership solutions were available in socialist theory, from public transport to state rental agencies, but in practice these also missed the mark.
Consumption is part of the Soviet automobile story, but there is more. Power and politics are also there, in various ways. The party Politburo made the key decisions that selected projects and models for mass production, and allocated the first vehicles to privileged institutional and private users. Forced labour built the early capital projects. Vast new factory towns arose to serve standardized mass production complexes. New highways tried to overcome Russia’s roadlessness. Motor transport became essential to the fabric of government administration and the management of the economy. When the needs of the government and the economy were satisfied, private households took what was left. After Stalin’s time, what was left increased rapidly. There were many reasons for this, including the regime’s need to substantiate its claim to be building a new and superior way of life.
In Stalin’s time, “building socialism” was not a figure of speech. Socialism was erected with structural steel, cement, and machinery in hundreds of construction projects for new towns, factories, railways, and highways. Siegelbaum’s story of GAZ, the Gorkii Automobile Factory, is a metaphor for the Soviet system: “At some imperceptible point, it seems, interest at the top in encouraging new designs withered, indifference became habit forming, and pretending became a way of life.”
Cars for Comrades forces economists and political scientists to think about the experience of Soviet society as the mass of citizens lived it every day. This experience intersected with the spread and limitation of privilege. Until the 1950s, access to cars was a marker for membership of the Soviet high elite. In the 1960s the regime dangled the prospect of wider car ownership before the Soviet middle class and the more highly paid skilled workers (who often earned more than supervisory staff). Thus, the historical record of access to cars helps to calibrate Soviet-era inequality. The same is true of access to roads. A settlement that was connected by roads gained access to supplies and income opportunities far beyond those that remained lost in the deep countryside.
Sometimes, it is said, it is better to travel than to arrive. This does not seem to apply to Moscow today, where commuters must live with semi-permanent gridlock on roads never designed for mass motorized mobility. There is a worldwide struggle to reconcile personal freedom with a sustainable environment in which Russia’s citizens are playing their part, for better or for worse. At this time, Cars for Comrades reminds us how much time and effort people were willing to put into getting and running a car when money alone was not enough.