Beyond Economistic Absolutism: The Postcommunist Transition from a Sociological Perspective

By Tucker, Aviezer | The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies, Fall 1998 | Go to article overview

Beyond Economistic Absolutism: The Postcommunist Transition from a Sociological Perspective


Tucker, Aviezer, The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies


Aviezer Tucker1

Markets and People:

The Czech Reform Experience in a Comparative Perspective

Jiri Vecernik

Avebury, Aldershot 1996. 294 PP.

Institutional Design in Post-Communist Societies: Rebuilding the Ship at Sea

Jon Elster, Claus Offe, Ulrich K Preuss, Frank Boenker, Ulrike Goetting & Friedbert W. Rueb.

Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1998. 350 pp

The collapse of the Soviet Empire ruined the careers of quite a number of academics. Some Sovietologists managed to adapt their skills and become experts on Russian affairs. But Kremlinologists, academic experts on deducing the Soviet power hierarchy from the position of leaders on Lenin's tomb during May Day celebrations, disappeared. Still, new academic specializations emerged after 1989. Chief among them is "Transition Studies," the study of the transformation of postcommunist countries from political totalitarianism and command economy to free market democracy. Many transitologists are economists.

Former Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus used to compare the reformers and entrepreneurs in the postcommunist world to the first white settlers of America, of whom he said: "The settlers came first and the law second." But when the first white men came to America they faced an embarrassing surprise: though they assumed that they were going to the eastern part of India, they discovered they were actually in an unknown new continent. When economists came to transform the command economies of postcommunist countries, they also had to face an embarrassing surprise: the assumptions of classical economics fail in the postcommunist context because economic transitions take place within structured societies.

People do not behave in the real world as abstract economic agents of economic theory, as people who strive solely to maximize their profit in a market. Economic behavior is affected by the social contexts in which economic agents are embedded, by their affiliations with a social network - for example, their membership in the old nomenklature. The existence, integrity and independence of institutions such as the police and the judiciary determine whether the rule of law and property rights that are the foundations of any liberal economic system will be enforced. For example, if there are no regulations to prevent embezzlement and theft by company managers; or if the existing regulations are not enforced against criminals with political networks, the assumption of classical economics that wealth is created only by enterprise, labor and free exchange becomes irrelevant. Finally, traditions and habits keep influencing economic behavior irrespective of political changes. For example, the monopolies that dominate the Czech economy and the government bureaucracies that are supposed to control them continue their pre-1989 habits and norms.

The rules of economics are not like the laws of physics: they do not hold everywhere, but only when some social-institutional conditions are satisfied. As anybody who has read Hayek knows, a free market without the rule of law, without the institution of private property and an active, honest police and judiciary is impossible. A postcommunist economy where these social conditions are not reformed becomes a valhalla for the nomenklature.

The recent books by the transition experts Jiri Vecernik and the American-German research team headed by Elster, Offe and Preuss examine the neglected social aspects of postcommunist transitions. Vecernik, probably the best Czech social scientist, applies sociological criticisms of the assumptions of classical economics to offer a better social understanding of the Czech economic transition. Elster et al. compared the institutional changes after the fall of communism in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.

Vecernik examined the process of transition in the Czech Republic from the perspective of the Czech household: how did the changes since 1990 affect Czech families, their incomes, employment, survival strategies, poverty, welfare, and political approaches, in comparison with other postcommunist countries? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Beyond Economistic Absolutism: The Postcommunist Transition from a Sociological Perspective
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.