Econ Read — Francis Spufford’s Red Plenty

“It says we need sixty five shoes”

This term’s Economics Department Read features Francis Spufford’s Red Plenty: Industry! Progress! Abundance! Inside the Fifties Soviet Dream.  The book is a hybrid history-fiction that uses many historical events and people to characterize the salad years of the Soviet Union, back when people thought central planning wasn’t a pipe dream.

Well, of course it was a pipe dream, and this book goes a long way to developing an understanding of planned economies and also the Soviet mentality. According to historian Marhall Poe, who has actually done some work on the Soviet Union himself, Red Plenty is the real deal:

[Red Plenty] 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.

In the interview Poe says that Spufford “is one of those people that took all of that liberal arts crap seriously.”

Hey! Sounds like our kind of guy.

As for the logistics,  it is a one-unit directed study that will meet most Tuesdays during winter term from 11:10-12:15.  You can get sign up sheets and signatures from  Professor Galambos or Professor Gerard.

Link to book at Amazon.

(As long as we’re on the subject, Poe also interviews Appleton-native David Brandenberger about his recent book, Propaganda State in Crisis: Soviet Ideology, Indoctrination, and Terror under Stalin.)