Thursday, January 22, 2009

Eugene V Debs or How Russia Really Works

Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist

Author: Nick Salvator

In this classic book, Nick Salvatore offers a major reevaluation of Eugene V. Debs, the movements he launched, and his belief in American Socialism as an extension of the nation's democratic traditions.

Eric Foner, History Book Club Review - Eric Foner

This is biography at its best.

Irving Howe, New York Review of Books - Irving Howe

Salvatore really knows the inner world of Debsian socialism, and he is shrewd in relating Debs' public presence to his personal life…The Debs who emerges is a flawed human being—very flawed—yet an extraordinary person…a vibrant and touching figure.

Melvyn Dubofsky, American Historical Review - Melvyn Dubofsky

In this stunning book, Salvatore sets Debs firmly within the central traditions of United States political and social history and depicts, as never before, the triumph and tragedy that characterized the socialist leaders personal and public life…Salvatore writes with warmth, grace, power, and feeling, and moves the reader…this book deserves to be read and treasured as the finest life of a modern American radical now in print.

New interesting book: 500 5 Ingredient Desserts or Taste of Ohio History Second Edition

How Russia Really Works: The Informal Practices That Shaped Post-Soviet Politics and Business

Author: Alena V Ledeneva

During the Soviet era, blat-the use of personal networks for obtaining goods and services in short supply and for circumventing formal procedures-was necessary to compensate for the inefficiencies of socialism. The collapse of the Soviet Union produced a new generation of informal practices. In How Russia Really Works, Alena V. Ledeneva explores practices in politics, business, media, and the legal sphere in Russia in the 1990s-from the hiring of firms to create negative publicity about one's competitors, to inventing novel schemes of tax evasion and engaging in "alternative" techniques of contract and law enforcement. She discovers ingenuity, wit, and vigor in these activities and argues that they simultaneously support and subvert formal institutions. They enable corporations, the media, politicians, and businessmen to operate in the post-Soviet labyrinth of legal and practical constraints but consistently undermine the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. The "know-how" Ledeneva describes in this book continues to operate today and is crucial to understanding contemporary Russia.

Foreign Affairs

Any society applies grease, some of it less than pure, to make its institutional gears mesh efficiently. But when the gears do not match up -- when institutions, including laws, are discrepant, dysfunctional, or fragile, and superabundant grease serves to compensate -- efficiency comes at a cost. "Informal practices" are the grease that interests Ledeneva, and in Russia they are the material that fills the gap between formal legal institutions and informal extralegal norms. They operate in politics (through illicit electoral manipulation), where business and politics meet (in insider mutual-protection societies), and in the economy at large (through barter, double bookkeeping, and "privatized" government agencies and services). Each has roots in Russian and Soviet history but with the important difference, as Ledeneva notes in her thoughtful exploration of both their nature and their effect, that informal practices in today's Russia are of, by, and for the few, not something accessible to the uninitiated.

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