Not without cause, some late Soviet-era reformers believed hypercentralization and micro-management were partly responsible foreconomic inefficiencies. Enterprise managers and employees did notdisagree. To them, the problem was not the enterprise itself; certainlyoutdated or worn technology hurt, but the real obstacle to productivitywas bureaucrats to whom they answered and whose Plan-centeredrules stifled innovation and productivity. As several assistant managersof a lathe-making firm told me in 1995, they knew much of their outputwas unnecessary and that monthly Plan targets were not “rational.” In the Soviet production model, economic output depended primarilyon sheer numbers of workers—but this model reached diminishingreturns. Further, the Soviet Union faced a renewed arms race involvingnew levels of technology, East Asian economies driven by modern technologiesand techniques, and dependency on petrodollars that the oilglut of the 1980s revealed. In this context, some reformers in ministriesand around Gorbachev came to see that liberalizing enterprise relationsand decentralizing decision-making to managers and even industrialworkers would inject needed dynamism into production against sclerosisand stagnation.
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