Robert C. Tucker/Stephen F. Cohen Dissertation Prize

2023 Recipient

James Allen Nealy, Jr.

The Robert C. Tucker/Stephen F. Cohen Dissertation Prize, established in 2006 and sponsored by the KAT Charitable Foundation, is awarded annually (if there is a distinguished submission) for an outstanding English-language doctoral dissertation in Soviet or Post-Soviet politics and history in the tradition practiced by Robert C. Tucker and Stephen F. Cohen. The dissertation must be defended at an American or Canadian university and completed during the calendar year prior to the award.

Winner: James Allen Nealy, Jr., Duke University
Title: “Making Socialism Work!: The Shchekino Method and the Drive to Modernize Soviet Industry”

In this well-written, theoretically nuanced, and engaging dissertation, James Allen Nealy, Jr. uses the case study of Shchekino to make big arguments about the flexibility of the late socialist economy. Nealy brings to light a seldom-studied method of industrial organization in order to demonstrate how the post-Stalin-era economy remained vibrant and willing to reform itself—both because of new challenges (like redundancies and inefficiency) and new possibilities created by automation. Nealy’s work is richly researched and highly readable, unpacking economic concepts in an accessible way. Most importantly, he upends pat, deterministic assumptions about an inert, decaying Soviet economy and supplies readers with a whole new picture of how a planned economy can be dynamic and innovative. The larger claim of this dissertation, that the Shchekino method helped lay a foundation for the neoliberalism that arrived in Russia when the Soviet Union collapsed, is fascinating and provocative. Who knew that neoliberalism had Soviet, socialist roots? Nealy’s work offers a terrific balance of theoretical and empirical work, of high-level policy and on-the-ground realities. His dissertation is replete with human voices as well as quantitative data, bringing together some of the best elements of economic, political, social, and cultural history.