Potential Reserve Army and Diverging Paths of Transition in Former State Socialist Economies

Abstract

Since the rise of neoliberalism in the world in the last quarter of the 20th century, many former state socialist economies also started their transition into different kinds of market economic models. Over the course of the last three decades or so, there emerged distinct paths of transition among these economies. This paper proposes a Marxian framework to help understand the three major models of transitions among former socialist economies: the Russian path, the Chinese path, and the Cuban/North Korean path. The framework focuses on the differences in working class composition and in particular the size of the potential reserve army in these socialist economies. An examination of the historical process of market reforms in former state socialist economies suggests that a sizable potential reserve army could give rise to a gradual approach to neoliberal transition while a negligible potential reserve army could lead to either a shock therapy or a long impasse.

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