Most studies on international competitiveness of the CPEs focus on the technological quality of Eastern European exports to the West and go into all kinds of comparisons with the NICs. Technology, of course, is only one factor affecting competitiveness. But the literature on the CMEA has largely refrained from references to, for example, cultural attitudes to explain the quality or quantity of production in Central Europe. The difference of the Eastern European worker from the committed (Confucianist and Shintoist) Japanese automobile worker or the disciplined, hardworking Korean shipbuilder surfaced only when the CPEs embarked on their transition and ran into major difficulties: the reforms in Russia are stalling, one is informed, because the orthodox Russian farmer is not up to it. Predictably, not everybody agrees. ‘The idea that East Europeans need to be taught the basic facts of economic life was always absurd. Forty years of rationing, shortages and thriving black markets were an excellent course in elementary economics — better, perhaps, than a century or two of capitalism whose beneficiaries take the miracle of supply and demand for granted’ (‘Pioneers of capitalism’, 1992). Individual attitudes clearly do influence national (and, for that matter, regional) production processes.
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