Skip to main content Accessibility help

Financialised Capitalism Soviet Style? Varieties of State Capture and Crisis*

  • Oane Visser (a1) and Don Kalb (a1)


Looking for new ways to interpret the failings of the neo-liberal economy, this article argues that financialised capitalism at the eve of the 2008 financial crisis showed striking analogies with the characteristic combination of oligopoly and informality of the Soviet economy at the eve of its collapse. State capture by oligopolists, a large "virtual economy", the inability of agencies to obtain insight into economic and financial operations, the short term orientations of managers not coinciding with enterprise viability, and a "mystification of risk" by high science are some of the analogies to be discussed. It is argued that not only the origins but also the aftermath of the crisis may show significant analogies.

L’hypothèse défendue est que le capitalisme financier de 2008 présentait de frappantes analogies avec l’économie soviétique à la veille de son effondrement. On examinera la mise en coupe réglée de l’État par les oligopoles, l’imposture de l’économie virtuelle, l’incapacité des agences de contrôle à suivre les opérations financières, la focalisation des managers sur le court terme au détriment de la viabilité à long terme de l’entreprise, le traitement mystificateur du risque par la mathématique financière. Outre les origines de la crise actuelle, on peut avancer que les lendemains prolongent les analogies.

Die Finanzkrise 2008 scheint, so die Arbeitshypothese, Ähnlichkeiten mit dem sowjetischen Wirtschaftssystem kurz vor seinem Zusammenbruch aufzuweisen. Untersucht werden die Unterwerfung des Staates durch die Oligarchen, der Betrug der virtuellen Wirtschaft, die Unfähigkeit der Kontrollorgane die Finanzgeschäfte zu verfolgen, die kurzfristige Planung auf unternehmerischer Seite, der mystische Umgang der Wirtschaftmathematik mit dem Risiko. Nicht nur die Ursprünge der Krise sondern auch die Folgeerscheinungen weisen Ähnlichkeiten auf.



Hide All
Arrighi, Giovanni, 1994. The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power and the Origins of our Times (London, Verso).
Arrighi, Giovanni, 2000. “Globalization. State Sovereignty, and the ‘Endless’ Accumulation of Capital”, in Kalb, Don, van der Land, Marco, Staring, Richard, van Steenbergen, Bart and Wilterink, Nico, eds., The Ends of Globalization. Bringing Society Back (Lanham, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers).
Aslund, Anders, 1995. How Russia Became a Market Economy (Washington, The Brookings Institution).
Augar, Philip, 2005. The Greed Merchants: How the Investments Banks Played the Free Market Game (New York, Portfolio).
Barnes, Andrew, 2006. Owning Russia. The Struggle over Factories, Farms and Power (Ithaca/London, Cornell University Press).
Berliner, Joseph, 1957. Factory and Manager in the USSR (Cambridge, Harvard University Press).
Brender, Anton and Pisani, Florence, 2009. Globalized Finance and its Collapse, (Belgium, Dexia).
Broekmeyer, Marius, 1995. Het verdriet van Rusland. Dagelijks leven op het platteland sinds 1945 [Russia’s Sorrow. Daily life in the countryside since 1945] (Amsterdam, Jan Mets).
Clarke, Simon, ed., 1998. Structural Adjustment without Mass Employment: Lessons from Russia (Cheltenham, Elgar).
Dorning, Michael, 2010. “Obama Adopts Behavioral Economics”, Businessweek, June 24,
EC (Commision of the European Communities), 1990. Stabilization, Liberalization and Devolution: Assessment of the Economic Situation and the Reform Process in the Soviet Union.
Friedman, Benjamin, 2010. “Two Roads to Our Financial Catastrophe”, New York Review of Books, Vol. LVII (7), pp. 27-29
Friedman, Kajsa and , Jonathan, 2008a. Historical Transformations: The Anthropology of Global Systems (Lanham, Altamira Press).
Friedman, Kajsa and , Jonathan, 2008b. Modernities, Class and the Contradictions of Globalization: The Anthropology of Global Systems (Lanham, Altamira Press).
Fukuyama, Francis, 1992. The End of History and the Last Man (New York, Avon Books).
Gaddy, Clifford G. and Ickes, Barry W., 1998. “Russia’s Virtual Economy”, Foreign Affairs, 77 (5), pp. 53-67.
Granick, David, 1954. Management of the Industrial Firm in the USSR: a Study in Soviet Economic Planning (New York, Columbia University Press).
Granick, David, 1960. The Red Executive (London, MacMillan).
Greskovits, Béla. 1998. The Political Economy of Protest and Patience: East European and Latin American Transformations Compared (Budapest, Central European University Press).
Grossman, Gregory, 1977. “The ‘Second Economy’ of the USSR”, Problems of Communism, 26 (5), pp. 25-40.
Harvey, David, 2003. The New Imperialism (Oxford, Oxford University Press).
Hertz, Noreena, 2001. The Silent Takeover. Global Capitalism and the Death of Democracy (London, Arrow Books).
Humphrey, Caroline, 1998. Marx Went Away, But Karl Stayed Behind. A Revised Edition of Karl Marx Collective. An Ethnography of a Soviet Collective Farm (Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press).
Johnson, Simon, 2009. “The Quiet Coup”, The Atlantic, May.
Johnson, Simon and Kwak, James, 2010. 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Take-Over and the Next Financial Meltdown (London, Pantheon).
Kalb, Don, 2005. “From Flows to Violence: Politics and Knowledge in the Debates on Globalization and Empire”, Anthropological Theory, vol. 5 (2), pp. 176-204
Kalb, Don, 2009. “Conversations with a Polish Populist: Tracing Hidden Histories of Globalization, Class, and Dispossession in Postsocialism (and Beyond)”, American Ethnologist 36 (2), pp. 207-223.
Kay, John, 2009. “What a Carve Up”, Financial Times, July 31.
Kingston-Mann, Esther, 2006. “The Return of Pierre Proudhon: Property Rights, Crime, and the rules of Law”, Focaal, 48, pp. 118-127.
Kitching, Gavin, 2001. “The Concept of sebestoimost in Russian Farm Accounting: A Very Unmagical Mystery Tour”, Journal of Agrarian Change, 1 (1), pp. 57-80.
Kornai, János, 1980. Economics of Shortage (Amsterdam, North-Holland Publishing Company).
Kornai, János, 2009. “The Soft Budget Constraint Syndrome and the Global Financial Crisis. Some Warnings from an East-European Economist”, Financial Times blog 14 October,
Kornai, János, Masku, Eric and Roland, Gerard, 2003. “Understanding the Soft Budget Constraint”, Journal of Economic Literature, 41 (4), pp. 1095-1136.
Kuznetsov, Andrei, 1994. “Economic Reforms in Russia: Enterprise Behaviour as an Impediment to Change”, Europe-Asia Studies, 46 (6), pp. 995-1070.
Ledeneva, Alena V., 1998. Russia’s Economy of Favours. Blat, Networking and Informal Exchange (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press).
Ledeneva, Alena V, 2006. How Russia Really Works: The Informal Practices that Shaped Post-Soviet Politics and Business. (Ithaca/ London, Cornell University Press).
Lerman, Zvi, Csaki, Csaba and Feder, Gershon, 2002. Land Policies and Evolving Farm Structures in Transition Countries, Worldbank Policy Research Working Paper Series n° 2794, Washington, D.C.: The World Bank,
Mandelbrot, Benoit B. and Hudson, Richard L., 2004. The (Mis)Behaviour of Markets, a Fractal View of Risk, Ruin and Reward (London, Profile books).
McMichael, Philip, 2009. “A Food Regime Analysis of the ‘World Food Crisis’”, Agriculture and Human Values, 26 (4), pp. 281-295.
Nove, Alec, 1980. The Soviet Economic System (London, George Allen and Unwin).
Peston, Robert, 2008. Who Runs Britain?… And Who's to Blame for the Economic Mess We’re (London, Hodder and Stoughton).
Sassen, Saskia, 1998. Globalisation and its Discontents: Essays on the New Mobility of People and Money (New York, The New Press).
Soros, George, 2008. The Crash of 2008 and What it Means: The New Paradigm for Financial Markets (New York, Public Affairs).
Spoor, Max and Visser, Oane, 2004. “Restructuring Postponed? Large Russian Farm Enterprises ‘Coping with the Market’”, The Journal of Peasant Studies, 31 (3–4), pp. 515-551.
Strange, Susan, 1986. Casino Capitalism (Oxford, Blackwell).
Swedberg, Richard, 2010. “The Structure of Confidence and the Collapse of Lehman Brothers”, in Loundry, Mike and Hirsch, Paul M., eds., Markets on Trial: The Economic Sociology of the U.S. Financial Crisis, Research in the Sociology of Organizations series (Bingley, Emerald Group Publishing).
Taleb, Nassim Nicholas, 2008. The Black Swan. The Impact of the Highly Improbable, (London: Penguin books).
Tett, Gillian, 2009. Fool’s Gold: How Unrestrained Greed Corrupted a Dream, Shattered Global Markets, and Unleashed a Catastrophe (London, Little Brown).
Visser, Oane, 2006. “Property, Labour Relations and Social Obligations in Russia’s Privatised Farm Enterprises”, in von Benda-Beckman, Keebet, von Benda-Beckman, Franz and Wiber, Melanie, eds., The Changing Properties of Property (London/New York, Berghahn).
Visser, Oane, 2008. Crucial Connections.The Persistence of Large Farm Enterprises in Russia (Nijmegen, Radboud University Nijmegen).
Visser, Oane, 2009. “Household Plots and the Symbiosis with the Large Farm Enterprises”, in Max, Spoor, ed., Land, Peasants and Rural Poverty in Transition. The Political Economy of Rural Livelihoods in Transition Economies, ISS Series in Rural Livelihoods (London/New York, Routledge).
Visser, Oane and Spoor, Max, 2011. “Land Grabbing in Post-Soviet Eurasia: The World's Largest Agricultural Land Reserves at Stake”, The Journal of Peasant Studies, 38 (1), forthcoming.
Wedel, Janine, 2004. “Blurring the State-Private Divide: Flex Organisations and the Decline of Accountability”, in Spoor, Max, ed., Globalisation, Poverty and Conflict: A Critical Development Reader (Dordrecht/Boston, Kluwer Academic Publishers).


Financialised Capitalism Soviet Style? Varieties of State Capture and Crisis*

  • Oane Visser (a1) and Don Kalb (a1)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed