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Red Plenty: Industry! Progress! Abundance!…

Red Plenty: Industry! Progress! Abundance! Inside the Fifties Soviet Dream (2010)

by Francis Spufford

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3972026,945 (4.07)15
  1. 10
    Animal Farm by George Orwell (lewbs)
    lewbs: Both books look at the shortcomings and hypocrisies of communism with some fine humor.
  2. 00
    The Captive Mind by Czesław Miłosz (lewbs)
    lewbs: One is a fiction about the economics of communism, the other is a non-fiction about mental processes in communism. Complementary books.
  3. 00
    We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (hazzabamboo)
    hazzabamboo: Dystopia, Soviet style
  4. 00
    The Clash of Economic Ideas: The Great Policy Debates and Experiments of the Last Hundred Years by Lawrence H. White (szarka)

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» See also 15 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
This book is a fantastic blend of history and fiction - I wish more authors would write books like this. It follows several people in Cold-War Era USSR, focusing on an interesting blend of their daily lives and the economic policies of the Soviet Union. The characters are interesting and their stories are compelling, even if they are disjointed. It is particularly fascinating reading about how the characters solved the economic problems of creating a communist economy and making it work in a capitalist world. The problems of supply and demand are very complex when economists have to avoid the concept of "value," and the book makes these economic problems very interesting and very real. It also makes it clear how hard the Soviets had to work to maintain their own fiction about the success of Communism.

The bibliography at the end of the book is also very useful - I want to read all the books in the bibliography now.

Unfortunately, I read this book when I was very busy, and I read in small snippets over several weeks. Because of that, I got confused about who some of the characters were, and probably missed a lot of nuance. ( )
1 vote Gwendydd | Nov 24, 2014 |
Red Plenty is pretty difficult to categorize. As the author explains, this is about history, but at the same time most of the characters are either fictional, or are shown thinking and saying things that, while plausible and based on actual historical recordings, have been made up by the author.

And even most importantly, the various characters, some recurring, some briefly sketched never to return in the narrative, are just different ways to talk about the real "hero" of the story. Except that this hero is not character, either real or fictional. The main character, you see, is an Idea.

The idea that by using maths (especially Linear Programming) first, and applying computers later, you can run a centralized, planned economy and make it grow at amazing rate till it takes you, and all your citizens, to a sort of materialistic utopia.

Of course, we all know that history took a different turn, but up to the 80s the Soviet government really tried, and (for an admittedly shorter time) believed that this was possible, and that the "red plenty" of the title would really benefit the whole Soviet Union, and show the USA that Capitalism was inherently less efficient.

We see the whole dream unfold (and sadly turn into a nightmare) through the eyes of low-level citizen, Party members, scientists, criminals.

I am amazed by the technical tour de force that this book represents: it explains very complex (and probably dull and boring) events and theories in a clear and entertaining way - I do have a bit of experience with the specifics regarding the math theory used in here, but I was very ignorant in terms of Marxi6Â
  pamar | Aug 25, 2014 |
Fun to read. ( )
  F.Lee | Jan 6, 2014 |
Engaging, interesting, educational. Really liked this a lot. I enjoyed the semi-historical, semi-novelistic way of putting across the overall narrative, especially the fact that Spufford was quite clear in the end-matter about what was real and what was fictionalised, without cluttering up the main body of the book itself. ( )
  comixminx | Apr 5, 2013 |
This historical novel about the Soviet Union's economy from the late 1950s to the early 1960s isn't for everyone, or even for very many people at all, probably. While it does an excellent job of explaining some complex concepts, it also tends to jump around a lot. ( )
  wanack | Mar 5, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Francis Spuffordprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Villanueva, AlvaroCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Асланян, АннаTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The Soviet Union was founded on a fairytale. It was built on 20th-century magic called 'the planned economy', which was going to gush forth an abundance of good things that the penny-pinching lands of capitalism could never match. And just for a little while, in the heady years of the late 1950s, the magic seemed to be working.… (more)

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