This book provides a comprehensive account of the structure, conduct, and performance of the centrally planned economies of Eastern Europe, the USSR, Communist China and the Marxist LDCs, looking at 26 nations in all. The author focuses on reform, perhaps the most important issue facing countries such as the USSR, Poland, Hungary, and China. Bureaucracy, soft budget constraints, markets, and the nature of the socialist state are the central issues that arise in the course of reforming a socialist economy. The first half of the book deals with 'classical socialism' and provides a theoretical summary of the main features of a now closed period of history. The second half deals with the processes of reform and concludes that the reform of classical socialist systems is doomed to failure as they are unable to renew themselves internally.
`This is truly a remarkable achievement. Kornai's book can be read with much profit by citizens of both east and west, by economists and by whoever is interested in politics, by specialists in the affairs of communist-run countries and by student beginners. It is well organised, shows a mastery of the material and is a model of clarity of exposition ... What he does do is to describe with consummate skill the essential features of the system as it was, and
why attempts to reform it have been so conspicuously unsuccessful. For this he deserves our gratitude and a large readership'
Alec Nove, New Statesman & Society
`This is the most comprehensive analysis of socialist economics ever written. It is lucid and well-structured, rendering it an ideal textbook for a broad range of students on the socialist economic system. This might be the definitive work on socialist economics. The greatest student of socialist economics has produced his grand oeuvre.'
Ander Aslund, Director, Stockholm Institute of Soviet and East European Economics
`Janos Kornai has long been the world's most perceptive analyst and critic of communism. The momentous changes of the last few years have generated plenty of heat. This book, destined to become a classic, sheds great light on communism - why it endured, why it eventually failed, and how it should and will evolve.'
Lawrence H Summers, World Bank
`Janos Kornai's analysis of the political economy of socialism is the right book at the right time by the right author ... a scholarly, realistic, insightful analysis of both the early successes and the gradual breakdown of socialist systems.'
Stanley Fischer, Professor of Economics, MIT
`Written by a leading scholar on comparative economic systems, the book is a masterly contribution.'
Padma Desai, Professor of Economics, Columbia
`Hungarian economist Janos Kornai gives a detailed but untechnical overview of socialist economies.'
'His book deserves to be read ... because of the sheer scholarship which has gone into producing it, and because of the insight into Stalinism and its legacy which it undoubtedly provides.'
Ian Kearns, University of Sheffield, International Affairs, April 1993
`Janos Kornai's The Socialist System: The Political Economy of Communism is definitely one of the best (if not the best) books ever written by such "synthesizers". It is the first comprehensive and systematic exposition of the political economy of state socialism. The author offers an intricate, nuanced, logical, and highly readable panorama of not just the Communist economy but the whole socioeconomic, political-cultural formation,
known as state socialism.'
Studies in Comparative International Development
`presents a detailed and exhaustive description of the general characteristics of the classical system, defined as the stalinist or maoist phase, and of the reform system that followed it ... any serious students specialising in comparative economic systems surely ought to become acquainted with the book'
`This book will appeal to a wide audience. It combines a coherent political model with a detailed economic critique. It also shows that socialist economics were not as homogenous as traditionally assumed by commentators. The book also provides valuable insights into what new economic forms are likely to replace the erstwhile socialist economies.'
`Great merit ... Kornai has been in his career deeply involved in the workings of the system he describes, so is an outstanding expert on it and sheds light on many of its aspects people who have not lived in communist societies cannot easily understand ... The book is a great achievement ... A comprehensive content, references, authors and subject indexes makes the book a very convenient research tool.'