Markets, States, and Democracy: The Political Economy of Post-Communist Transformation

By Beverly Crawford | Go to book overview

3
Conceptions of Democracy in the Draft Constitutions of Post-Communist Countries

STEPHEN HOLMES

The process of democratization in Eastern Europe is made more difficult by the painful legacies of the past, including, in random order, ethnic tensions, personal habits of dependency, low tolerance for economic inequality, the absence of a middle class, lack of experience with the rule of law and electoral politics, poorly trained judicial personnel, a willingness to accept rumor as a basis for political discourse, and a tendency to defeatism born of a regional inferiority complex vis- à-vis the West. These cultural and structural residua of communist and pre-communist periods, however, are not the only obstacles to reform. The weight of the past is matched by the weight of the present. For instance, the huge economic shock resulting from the overnight collapse of existing trade relations has produced the East European equivalent of the Great Depression. This is a new problem, not an old one. Although economic underdevelopment is partly a result of cultural and structural legacies of Leninism, the present economic catastrophe is the product of sudden decolonization--a regional breakup with which former members of the now-disbanded Soviet Empire were wholly unprepared to cope.

Similarly, the past alone cannot be blamed for tensions resulting from the historically unprecedented combination of political and economic transitions. As Beverly Crawford points out in Chapter 1, there is an inherent paradox in using democratic means to create a government that will reform the economy, since democracy gives ultimate authority to an electoral majority that, in turn, will be most harmed in the short term by the pain and dislocation of economic reform. China suffers from most of the cultural and structural legacies that beset Eastern Europe but does not face the same economic problems confronting Eastern Eu

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