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Jeremy Friedman

Mar 24, 2022

Ripe for Revolution

Building Socialism in the Third World

Harvard University Press 2022

In the first decades after World War II, many newly independent Asian and African countries and established Latin American states pursued a socialist development model. In Ripe for Revolution: Building Socialism in the Third World (Harvard UP, 2022), Jeremy Friedman traces the socialist experiment over forty years through the experience of five countries: Indonesia, Chile, Tanzania, Angola, and Iran.

These states sought paths to socialism without formal adherence to the Soviet bloc or the programs that Soviets, East Germans, Cubans, Chinese, and other outsiders tried to promote. Instead, they attempted to forge new models of socialist development through their own trial and error, together with the help of existing socialist countries, demonstrating the flexibility and adaptability of socialism. All five countries would become Cold War battlegrounds and regional models, as new policies in one shaped evolving conceptions of development in another. Lessons from the collapse of democracy in Indonesia were later applied in Chile, just as the challenge of political Islam in Indonesia informed the policies of the left in Iran. Efforts to build agrarian economies in West Africa influenced Tanzania’s approach to socialism, which in turn influenced the trajectory of the Angolan model.

Ripe for Revolution shows socialism as more adaptable and pragmatic than often supposed. When we view it through the prism of a Stalinist orthodoxy, we miss its real effects and legacies, both good and bad. To understand how socialism succeeds and fails, and to grasp its evolution and potential horizons, we must do more than read manifestos. We must attend to history.

Jeremy Friedman is Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. The former Associate Director of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy at Yale University, he is the author of Shadow Cold War: The Sino–Soviet Competition for the Third World.

Thomas Kingston is currently a Huayu Enrichment Scholar, studying Mandarin Chinese at National Cheng Kung University, as he finds himself in post MPhil and pre PhD limbo. He holds an MA in Pacific Asian Studies from SOAS, University of London and an MPhil in Philosophy from Renmin University of China. His research interests focus on the political and intellectual histories of nationalism(s), imaginaries and colonialism in the East and Southeast Asian context.

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Thomas Kingston

Thomas Kingston is an early career scholar and a voracious reader (183 books in 2021). You can find his website at www.thomasekingston.com or reach him on twitter @thomasekingston
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