This book investigates cases in which national and international activities have gone massively wrong, entailing seriously negative consequences, and in which the sophisticated analytical models of social science have ceased to be helpful. Illustrations range from the global financial crisis to the failure to achieve speedy systemic change in the Former Soviet Union and the failure to achieve development in the Third World. The analysis uses as a backdrop long-term Russian history and short-term Russian encounters with unrestrained capitalism to develop a framework that is based in the so-called new institutionalism. Understanding the causes of systemic failure is shown to require an approach that spans across the increasingly specialized subdisciplines of modern social science. Demonstrating that increasing theoretical sophistication has been bought at the price of a loss of perspective and the need for sensitivity to the role of cultural and historical specificity, the book pleads the case for a new departure in seeking to model the motives for human action.
“Stefan Hedlund’s Invisible Hands, Russian Experience, and Social Science is a long-overdue effort to draw lessons from the failure of traditional social science to understand and formulate policy responses to the three truly cataclysmic events of the past quarter century – the collapse of communism, the confrontation between Islam and the West, and the global financial crisis. Hedlund’s tightly argued and elegantly written book is a timely call to reconsider the value of real-life knowledge, history, and common sense in analysis and policymaking.”
Clifford Gaddy, The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC
“This is an impressive book. It tackles some big issues in the methodology of the social sciences, and offers convincing grounds for reconsidering how we analyze both financial crises and systemic transformations.”
Philip Hanson, The Royal Institute for International Affairs, London
“Stefan Hedlund brings to this book a depth of knowledge and research into the former Soviet Union in the context of developments in world economics. He details the failure both of neo-classical economics and sociological institutionalism to promote growth and well-being, not only in Russia but in other developing countries and calls for an alternative approach.”
David Lane, University of Cambridge, UK