Post-Communist Political Economy: A Framework for the Analysis of Reform
After the revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe and the last gasp of the Communist party's power in Russia, most post-communist regimes embarked on a course of self-proclaimed economic and democratic shock therapy to transform their societies, economies, and political systems. These new regimes' immediate external and internal mandate was the simultaneous introduction of markets and democracy and the dismantling of the discredited socialist state. Under what conditions will they succeed, and why will some fail?
The task faced by the new leaders was unprecedented. Liberalizing reforms were launched in the absence of strong civil societies, a prosperous middle class, and widespread liberal values. New regimes struggled to revive economies that plummeted faster, farther, and longer than anyone anticipated, and these economies entered the international economy with uncompetitive exports in a period of fierce global market competition in which no external power or group of powers appeared to be willing and able to underwrite the costs of liberalization. In other regions of the world and in previous historical periods, new democracies had failed to put down roots under conditions of economic crisis, and successful market reform in the post-war period has most often taken place under authoritarian regimes that sometimes engage in brutal repression to stabilize and develop their economies. The only successful recent simultaneous introduction of markets and democracy has occurred when these institutions were "installed" by an external hegemonic power, as in the case of post-World War II Germany and Japan (and experts disagree as to just how "liberal" these countries are).