2020 Ed A Hewett Book Prize
The Ed A Hewett Book Prize, established in 1994, previously sponsored by NCEEER and now sponsored by the University of Michigan Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, is awarded annually for an outstanding monograph on the political economy of Russia, Eurasia and/or Eastern Europe, published in the previous year.
Winner: Emanuela Grama
Title: Socialist Heritage: The Politics of Past and Place in Romania (Indiana University Press)
Grama shows us how cultural heritage can open a window onto political economy and, in doing so, gives us new ways to appreciate class formation, the state, and planning/markets. The study is among the first to fashion a comprehensive theory of socialist political economy as materiality, offering original insights and a deeper understanding of value and governance in socialist and postsocialist contexts. While an earlier generation of scholars focused on the importance of ideology and a later generation on the importance of institutions, Grama redefines what socialist political economy was and how it worked. By viewing political economy through a cultural lens, we observe materiality and value as the media through which socialist political economy gains much of its power and practice, and how it keeps getting rebuilt and remade.
Focusing on the “Old Town” in Bucharest, the study glides across time periods investigating how distinctive aspects of national cultural heritage were exploited and celebrated in service to prevailing political regimes and elite interests – from the medieval ruins that suited the identity-shaping needs of “Post-War Romania” to the nationalizing politics of “Ceausescu’s Romania” to the eclectic turn-of-the-century architecture that suited the collective identity needs of “European Romania.” But the study provides even more by taking us inside the city center to meet the residents, and to show the disaffecting and dislocating social effects of urban policy over time. The contrast between fabricated identity and lived experience is delivered with precision and sensitivity by the author. The case study is built upon an impressive empirical base of archival research and ethnographic work, presented in a well-written and engaging narrative style.
Honorable Mention: Alina-Sandra Cucu
Title: Planning Labour: Time and the Foundations of Industrial Socialism in Romania (Berghahn Books)
Cucu’s book addresses the difference between centrally planned socialism in principle and what occurred on the shop floor in practice in Romania. The study adds new and challenging conceptual dimensions to our understanding of labor in the command economy, by emphasizing the ‘fragility of the state’ and the ‘non-synchronicity” of the planning process. Cucu explains and demonstrates the importance of temporal aspects of governance that often go overlooked, and effectively argues that labor policy in the “workers’ state” often went against the interests of the workers. Focusing on two factories in Cluj, the study brings to life the ways in which workers and managers co-existed amid disorder and subversion. The original case study is constructed from exhaustive archival research. The book further shows off an exceptional command of the literature, while making its own insightful contribution to labor studies. Planning Labour is an exemplary book for the micro-analysis of the shop floor in labor theory and history.