Roshan Kishore picks his favourite reads of 2023 - Hindustan Times

Roshan Kishore picks his favourite reads of 2023

Dec 29, 2023 05:37 PM IST

A simple account of what went wrong in the Soviet economy, an interesting take on how the capitalist block in the Cold War pivoted to neoliberalism, and another on the rightward tilt in politics in Britain and Italy during the interwar period

The last book I read in 2022 was Chris Miller’s excellent Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology. It was thanks to this book, that I realized that Miller has also written an excellent account of why the Soviet Union collapsed suddenly in the 1980s in his 2020 book, The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy: Mikhail Gorbachev and the Collapse of the USSR. While there exists a lot of dense literature in economics on problems with socialist economic models, Miller’s work is perhaps the simplest account of what exactly went wrong in the Soviet economy.

The dialectics of political economy (University of Chicago Press)
The dialectics of political economy (University of Chicago Press)

As luck would have it, I was able to land Fritz Bartel’s The Triumph of Broken Promises: The End of the Cold War and the Rise of Neoliberalism after finishing Miller’s book on the Soviet Union. Bartel’s book, while not as layperson reader friendly as Miller’s offers a very interesting take on why the capitalist block in the Cold War was able to survive the tumultuous economic period of the 1970s by pivoting to neoliberalism, read dilution of the welfare state, which had come into being in what is now known as the Golden Age of capitalism. Another book which covers a similar topic, although in a different historical time and with far more catastrophic consequences for humankind is Clara E Mattei’s The Capital Order: How Economists Invented Austerity and Paved the Way to Fascism which describes in detail, the rightward tilt in politics in Britain and Italy the context of increasing working class assertion during the inter-war period.

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Roshan Kishore (HT Photo)
Roshan Kishore (HT Photo)

Between Miller’s account of the Soviet economy, Bartel’s comparative analysis of the political economy on both sides of the Berlin Wall and Mattei’s historical account of a reactionary consolidation of capital against a growing communist threat, one gets a historical but extremely enriching picture of the dialectics of political economy in the modern and more importantly trade dependent global economy, irrespective of the nature of regime.

The learnings from these works, the way I see this, are extremely useful in making sense of the state of play in both India and the world at large. What makes this scholarly works really remarkable for me is the fact that they are of great use to readers irrespective of their own ideological persuasions, a trait which is becoming increasingly rare in today’s world.

READ MORE: HT editors pick their best reads of 2023

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