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Washington, D.C. : National Council for Soviet and East European Research, [1991]

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In its struggle to reform, the Soviet leadership faces a major dilemma in attempting to reconcile economic efficiency with a commitment to social justice. The economic reforms of perestroika call for a greater role for market mechanisms and even private enterprise. However, these policies often run up against a public opinion that is staunchly egalitarian. Public attitudes that are, on the one hand, critical of elite privileges and distrustful of the state distributive apparatus are also, on the other hand, supponive of centralized distribution of resources, limitations on high incomes, and restrictions on private propeny.

The issue of social justice has been revived in the last few years in the Soviet Union, with the encouragement of Gorbachev himself. This has stimulated a lively debate among intellectuals, and also touches some sensitive nerves in public opinion, which is becoming increasingly visible with the growth of survey research and the more widespread publication of its results. This creates a kind of spiral of discontent: the economy deteriorates and inequities increase; journalists and academics openly discuss these problems; because of this publicity ("glasnost"), the sense of injustice is heightened; and the regime's legitimacy is further reduced, not only from the declining standard of living, but from the increased popular consciousness of injustice. The whole phenomenon resembles the sense of relative deprivation and frustrated expectations which is characteristic of revolutionary situations. The way in which this issue is resolved, or not resolved, will determine the future shape of the Soviet Union.


"Council contract number: 805-11."

"Contractor: Butler University."

"March 1991."