Faculty Scholarship 1994 - Present

Rethinking the Transition to Capitalism: Taking the Assumption of Sel Interested Behavior Seriously

While undergoing a transition to capitalism in the 1990s, the Russian economy collapsed. A factor contributing to the collapse was the shock therapy policy advice of western experts. These experts, relying on mainstream economic theory, ignored the unique characteristics of transition periods between economic systems. A Hobbesian critique of the underlying assumptions of mainstream economics is offered. We argue that a Hobbesian approach, focusing on the dynamics of struggles over the rules of the economic game would be very useful for understanding the transition to capitalism in Russia. An important Hobbesian thesis is that attempts to change the rules of the economic game without a robust state apparatus to enforce those rules leads not to capitalist prosperity but to the war of all against all.