The Russian-American sociologist (and founder of Harvard’s Sociology Department) Pitirim Sorokin once posited that the Soviet Union and the United States would end up converging in terms of their economic structures over time, with one meeting the other at some sort of optimal half-way point (between pure command and pure market). It seems that in the post-Soviet era, Russia and the U.S.’s economic and social structures are indeed beginning to converge, albeit not in the way that he might have hoped:
Dynamics of Regional Inequality in the Russian Federation: Circular and Cumulative Causality
David Lane, Cambridge
Growing spatial differentiation is a major feature of competitive capitalism: rich metropolitan areas which maintain finance, research, and headquarter the service industries and government grow at the expense of agricultural, rural and traditional ‘rust-belt’ industrial localities. The empirical part of the paper shows that, with marketisation, these developments have occurred with increasing intensity in the Russian Federation; areas with material and human assets grow, whereas poor areas become even more deprived. The solution proposed by politicians predicated on orthodox economics is that the capitalist system has its own self- adjusting laws of reciprocal causality. Movements in one direction precipitate counter-forces which correct movements away from equilibrium. The paper demonstrates, on the contrary, that foreign direct investment
goes to the more developed areas, that outmigration and unemployment are not reversed: a form of circular and cumulative causality characterises capitalist markets. Changes in one direction lead to processes which amplify such trends: rich and poor areas develop at an exponential rate and the differences between them increase. In the conclusion it is argued that market mechanisms are unable to reverse these developments. Only comprehensive state regulation can lead to greater equality between regions.
Now compare that to this:
The Boom Towns and Ghost Towns of the New Economy
Five years after the crash, with the national economy just beginning to return to something resembling normalcy, we can begin to trace the outlines of America’s emerging economic map—and take inventory of the places that are thriving, those that are declining, and those that are trying, in novel ways, to come back…Taken together, the patterns revealed by these measures provide a fine-grained picture of America’s post-crisis geography. The economic landscape is being reshaped around two kinds of hubs—centers of knowledge and ideas, and clusters of energy production. Overwhelmingly, these are the places driving the economic recovery. Outside them, the economy remains troubled and weak…The cultural, political, and economic gulfs that separate advantaged and disadvantaged people and places go well beyond the wage gap. Knowledge workers benefit from living in neighborhoods with better schools, better amenities, and lower crime rates, while less advantaged groups are sometimes stuck in place, with limited prospects for climbing even one rung up the economic ladder, and insufficient resources to move out of stagnant areas. Americans have seen a dramatic decline in economic mobility, overall. But a poor person from a knowledge center like San Jose or San Francisco has twice the chance of becoming wealthy as a poor person from some Rust Belt or Sun Belt centers like Cleveland or Atlanta.
The similarities between the two, of course, are hardly exhausted here, but I thought these two pieces deserved to be juxtaposed.