BPEA | 1992 No. 1

Hunting for Homo Sovieticus: Situational versus Attitudinal Factors in Economic Behavior

Robert J. Shiller,
Robert J. Shiller
Robert J. Shiller Sterling Professor of Economics - Yale University
Vladimir Korobov, and
Vladimir Korobov Kherson Pedagogical Institute
Maxim Boycko
Maxim Boycko Russian Privatization Center

1992, No. 1

MANY PEOPLE ARE CONCERNED that those who live in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union lack the attitudes—such as entrepreneurial spirit, initiative, leadership, motivation, and the willingness to take risks and assume responsibility—needed to function well in a market economy. So many people think that such attitudes are fundamentally lacking in the former Soviet bloc that it is popular to refer to people there as homo sovieticus, as though they were a different species of humankind. The idea seems to be that years of living in a communist system has produced a mind set-even a personality-different from that found in the advanced capitalist countries, and while these characteristics probably are not immutable,t hey may not change dramatically for generations. If this homo sovieticus theory is true, then serious problems will arise in the formerly communist countries as they make the transition to successful market economies.