We have chosen to call the former socialist countries as they usually called themselves, rather than ‘`Soviet-type’, ‘centrally planned’, or ‘command’ economies, or other designations sometimes preferred by scholars. This is not just a matter of semantics. Using the wording ‘socialist’ may involve the writer into conflictual issues. As does Kornai (1992, p. 10), we have decided to keep the phrase by which the system referred to itself. In this sense we deal with ‘really eaxisting’, or ‘real’, socialism (a wording coined by dissidents in the 1970s, such as Rudolf Bahro), as opposed to ‘ideal’. Our aim is ‘to empirically examine actual economies and their behaviour’ (Pryor, 1985, p. 3). Why then keep the word ‘socialist’ which has been extensively used in a normative sense? Because it is impossible to describe this system without stating its ideological and normative foundations. The task is not an easy one. There has never been an economic theory of really existing socialism, though some definitions have been offered (Sutela, 1994).
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