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Invisible Hands, Russian Experience, and Social Science
Approaches to Understanding Systemic Failure

  • Date Published: July 2013
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107627819

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About the Authors
  • This book investigates cases in which national and international activities have gone massively wrong, entailing seriously negative consequences, and in which the sophisticated analytical models of social science have ceased to be helpful. Illustrations range from the global financial crisis to the failure to achieve speedy systemic change in the former Soviet Union and the failure to achieve development in the Third World. The analysis uses as a backdrop long-term Russian history and short-term Russian encounters with unrestrained capitalism to develop a framework that is based in the so-called new institutionalism. Understanding the causes of systemic failure is shown to require an approach that spans across the increasingly specialized subdisciplines of modern social science. Demonstrating that increasing theoretical sophistication has been bought at the price of a loss of perspective and the need for sensitivity to the role of cultural and historical specificity, the book pleads the case for a new departure in seeking to model the motives for human action.

    • Expands on the importance of fundamental contradictions between the assumptions of sociology and economics regarding motives for human action
    • Presents a broad panorama of the role and relevance of approaches of 'new institutionalism' across the social sciences
    • Provides fuel for discussion on crises of capitalism and the market economy more generally
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Stimulating, perceptive, and exceptionally broad-ranging, Stefan Hedlund's book deserves a wide readership. It persuasively cuts across the artificial boundaries of contemporary social science.' Archie Brown, University of Oxford

    'Stefan Hedlund's Invisible Hands, Russian Experience, and Social Science is a long-overdue effort to draw lessons from the failure of traditional social science to understand and formulate policy responses to the three truly cataclysmic events of the past quarter century - the collapse of communism, the confrontation between Islam and the West, and the global financial crisis. Hedlund's tightly argued and elegantly written book is a timely call to reconsider the value of real-life knowledge, history, and common sense in analysis and policymaking.' Clifford Gaddy, The Brookings Institution, Washington DC

    'Even though Stefan Hedlund, a well-known expert on Soviet and Russian economy and society, uses the historical development of Russia and the Soviet Union as his case, this is not primarily a book about Russia. By showing how social sciences failed in understanding and explaining the reasons for such major 'systemic failures' as [the] financial crisis and the degradation of the Soviet economy, Hedlund argues convincingly for an approach which pays due attention to history, culture, and ethics.' Jukka Gronow, Uppsala University, Sweden

    'This is an impressive book. It tackles some big issues in the methodology of the social sciences, and offers convincing grounds for reconsidering how we analyze both financial crises and systemic transformations.' Philip Hanson, The Royal Institute for International Affairs, London

    'In the wake of Russia's failed neo-liberal reforms and the West's financial crisis, Invisible Hands, Russian Experience, and Social Science offers a timely and searing critique of mainstream economic analysis. The work is at once a richly informed assessment of the barriers to market reform in Russia and a challenge to social scientists to rethink some of their basic assumptions about the sources of human behavior.' Eugene Huskey, Stetson University, Florida, and author of Presidential Power in Russia

    'Stefan Hedlund brings to this book a depth of knowledge and research into the former Soviet Union in the context of developments in world economics. He details the failure both of neo-classical economics and sociological institutionalism to promote growth and well-being, not only in Russia but in other developing countries and calls for an alternative approach.' David Lane, University of Cambridge

    'Hedlund has brought the broad knowledge of a historian, the conceptual knowledge of an economist, and the open mind of a skeptic to a study of system failures in economies as different as Russia and Wall Street - and what social scientists can learn from awkward events.' Richard Rose, University of Aberdeen

    'This is a stimulating contribution to the discourse about systemic failures of recent years and an overdue and substantiated call to balance accounts between current history, economics, and sociology.' Heinrich Vogel, Former Director, Federal Institute for Soviet and East European Studies, Cologne

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2013
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107627819
    • length: 324 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.48kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Preface
    Introduction
    1. Opportunity and self-interest
    2. Scope and tradition of social science
    3. Markets under central planning
    4. Russia's historical legacy
    5. Markets everywhere
    6. Institutional choice
    7. History matters
    8. Concluding discussion
    9. Implications for social science.

  • Author

    Stefan Hedlund, Uppsala Universitet, Sweden
    Stefan Hedlund was appointed Professor of Soviet and East European Studies at Uppsala University in 1990. Over the years since then, he has published extensively on the break-up of the Soviet order, attempted Russian reforms and the importance of historical legacies. Professor Hedlund has been a frequent commentator in the media and has traveled and lectured widely, including two sabbatical semesters at Harvard University, as well as briefer stays at the Kennan Institute and George Washington University, Washington, DC, Stanford University and Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan. His most recent publications include Russian Path Dependence (2005), Russia Since 1980 (Cambridge University Press, with Steven Rosefielde, 2009) and Authoritarian Market Economy (Chinese edition, 2011).

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