Political Change in Eastern Europe since 1989: Prospects for Liberal Democracy and a Market Economy

By Robert Zuzowski | Go to book overview
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6 The West's Approach to
Postcommunist Eastern Europe

Nobody seriously argues that foreign assistance is irrelevant to the systemic change Eastern Europe has been undergoing since the downfall of communism. Yet the Western world's attitudes and policies toward fundamental political and economic change in the region leave much to be desired. Western politicians appear to believe that a mixture of economic assistance and verbal encouragement for transformation is sufficient to guarantee the successful change of communist regimes into liberal democracies based on a market economy.

The assumption is difficult to understand. Consider the fact that economic assistance for the Third World states since the 1950s has produced poor results thus far, and consider also that much evidence shows that the transformation of a Third World state into a Westernized regime seems much easier to accomplish than the transition from communism to a liberal democracy. Third World economies are, to a considerable extent, market economies based on private ownership. Yet there has so far been little success in bringing about their transformation into modern, Westernized economies with high living standards and a comfortable degree of welfarism.

Why, then, should the East European states be more successful with their systemic change than most countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa? Why are many commentators in the West optimistic when they talk about

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