Next term’s Economics Department Community Read will feature Francis Spufford’s fascinating Red Plenty: Inudstry! Progress! Abundance! Inside the Fifties Soviet Dream. It is an idiosyncratic book that draws heavily on historical figures and events to characterize a period in the Soviet Union where central planners thought that central planning would actually work.
Though academics tend to take a dim view of works of historical fiction generally, University of Iowa historian Marshall Poe says this is clearly an exception:
Once in a great while, however, a book [of historical fiction] comes along whose truth is so powerful that even the literary critics and professors take notice. Francis Spufford’s Red Plenty: Industry! Progress! Abundance! Inside the Fifties Soviet Dream is such a book. It contains more “truth” about the Soviet project than an entire library of “serious” novels and dry-as-dust histories. If I had to recommend one book on the Soviet Union to someone who wanted to understand it, Red Plenty would be it. Read it.
The group will meet on most Tuesdays during winter term from 11:10-12:15, and you can sign up with Professor Galambos or Professor Gerard. The reading should be an ideal complement for those taking Professor Galambos’ comparative economics systems course.
If you have some time in the next 50 days before next term starts, you might even be able to get a head start.
We do this every term, so you could pick up half a course over the course of a year.