Farm to Factory

Farm to Factory : A Reinterpretation of the Soviet Industrial Revolution

4.13 (60 ratings by Goodreads)
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To say that history's greatest economic experiment--Soviet communism--was also its greatest economic failure is to say what many consider obvious. Here, in a startling reinterpretation, Robert Allen argues that the USSR was one of the most successful developing economies of the twentieth century. He reaches this provocative conclusion by recalculating national consumption and using economic, demographic, and computer simulation models to address the "what if" questions central to Soviet history. Moreover, by comparing Soviet performance not only with advanced but with less developed countries, he provides a meaningful context for its evaluation. Although the Russian economy began to develop in the late nineteenth century based on wheat exports, modern economic growth proved elusive. But growth was rapid from 1928 to the 1970s--due to successful Five Year Plans. Notwithstanding the horrors of Stalinism, the building of heavy industry accelerated growth during the 1930s and raised living standards, especially for the many peasants who moved to cities. A sudden drop in fertility due to the education of women and their employment outside the home also facilitated growth.
While highlighting the previously underemphasized achievements of Soviet planning, Farm to Factory also shows, through methodical analysis set in fluid prose, that Stalin's worst excesses--such as the bloody collectivization of agriculture--did little to spur growth. Economic development stagnated after 1970, as vital resources were diverted to the military and as a Soviet leadership lacking in original thought pursued wasteful investments.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 312 pages
  • 152 x 235 x 17.02mm | 454g
  • New Jersey, United States
  • English
  • 34 line illus. 36 tables.
  • 0691144311
  • 9780691144313
  • 74,684

Back cover copy

"This well-written book will be quite controversial, finding as it does something good about the Soviet system when all others are saying the opposite. Allen's main conclusions--that the pre-revolutionary economy would not have done well had it been continued, that collectivization was not a disaster, and that there was considerable merit in Stalinist investment strategies--represent a lone voice in the wilderness that needs to be heard."--Paul Gregory, author of The Political Economy of Stalinism and Before Command: The Russian Economy from Emancipation to Stalin

"A magnificent accomplishment. This is a major work of synthetic research, one that will be disputed, debated, and discussed for many years to come. It is a carefully crafted piece of painstaking quantitative research but also a searching and provocative study of one of the most perplexing episodes in European history. Allen's book will be read by anyone--historian, social scientist, political analyst--interested in the deep and complex issues posed by the greatest failed experiment in the history of the human race."--Joel Mokyr, author of The Gifts of Athena and series editor, Princeton Economic History of the Western World
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Table of contents

List of Figures ix List of Tables xi Acknowledgments xiii Chapter One Soviet Development in World-Historical Perspective 1 Part One The Economy before Stalin 19 Chapter Two Economic Growth before 1917 21 Chapter Three The Development Problem in the 1920s 47 Chapter Four NEP Agriculture and Economic Development 65 Part Two Stalin's Industrial Revolution 89 Chapter Five Planning, Collectivization, and Rapid Growth 91 Chapter Six The Population History of the USSR 111 Chapter Seven The Standard of Living 132 Chapter Eight The Causes of Rapid Industrialization 153 Chapter Nine Preobrazhensky in Action 172 Part Three After Stalin 187 Chapter Ten The Soviet Climacteric 189 Appendix A Soviet National Income 212 Appendix B The Simulation Model of the Soviet Economy 223 Appendix C Data Sources 238 Appendix D The Demographic Databases and Simulation Model Used in Chapter 6 249 Notes 253 Bibliography 271 Index 295
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Review quote

Co-Winner of the 2005 Ranki Prize, Economic History Association "Farm to Factory ... provide[s] new insights on several key issues and presents a stimulating and wide-ranging perspective on twentieth-century Soviet social and economic history."--Gijs Kessler, International Review of Social History "Robert Allen considers ... contentions about the costs and achievements of industrialization and the collectivization of agriculture in the USSR."--Paul Josephson, Technology and Culture
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About Robert C. Allen

Robert C. Allen is Professor of Economic History at Oxford University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He is the author of "Enclosure and the Yeoman".
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Rating details

60 ratings
4.13 out of 5 stars
5 43% (26)
4 35% (21)
3 15% (9)
2 5% (3)
1 2% (1)
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