Ed A Hewett Book Prize


Honorable Mention

Post-Soviet Power: State-Led Development and Russia’s Marketization

Honorable Mention: Susanne A. Wengle
Title: Post-Soviet Power: State-Led Development and Russia’s Marketization (Cambridge University Press)

Post-Soviet Power, a history of the reform of the Russian electricity sector from 1992 to 2008, the largest electricity liberalization anywhere, is a study of how political rivalries and compromises shaped market institutions in the post-Soviet economy. Wengle shows the role of interests, legacies, ideas, geography, and political and economic actors in this major development reform. Her insights on the political economy of Russia during privatization go well beyond a particular sector in a particular time and place.

By comparing the changes across three supra-regional areas in Russia and across more than a decade and a half, she incorporates industrial geography, economics, and political science, including game theory, to show the political processes that were employed to create three separate price regimes, which were suited to the diversity of regional production. She moves us beyond various unidimensional understandings of change—whether focused on rent-seeking, state capture, or bureaucratic corruption—to show a dynamic, mutually constitutive relationship between politics and economics.  Her constructivist interpretation of political economy is able to account for governors’ ability to block change in the 1990s but their impotence under Putin, the undeniable prevalence of graft but also the consistent drive toward building supra-regional markets for electricity, and the ability of some oligarchs to shape reforms but the failure of others to do so.  She does this by showing that economic development is the result of shifting political pacts among major players, while transformation of the economic system affects who those major players are.

This well-written book thus offers empirical detail and theoretical challenges that help us understand the past two decades and will shape any future efforts to study these questions.

Winner: Douglas Rogers