Postcommunist Transition and Social Sciences: The Case of Slovenia

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INTRODUCTION

For Slovene society, the last decade of the 20th century was a period of extremely important structural changes. They were marked by two major transformations: first, the establishment of an independent state following the failure of the "Yugoslav" project, and second, the establishment of democratic politics and market economy after the failure of the communist project. While the former is mostly related to the establishment of institutions of statehood, the latter seems to be much more profound. It includes institutional changes like the development of democratic political institutions, privatisation and market liberalisation. But the changes concern also the ways of thinking and acting as well as the values, attitudes and mentality.

Compared to other societies in Eastern Europe, Slovenia had a relatively good starting position. This was closely related to its relative openness to the West in economic, cultural and partially even political sense already in the communist times. The country contributed 25-30% to the overall Yugoslav exports to the Western markets (though represented approximately 8% of the Yugoslav population). Its managers had well-developed contacts with Western partners. These achievements reflected in the relatively high living standards. The openness to Western influences contributed to the speed and manner of changes in political life. Civil society developed rapidly in the 1980s thus leading to the collapse of the communist regime. The political changes were smooth. This was also due to the high level of adaptability and flexibility of the old elite. Because of its economic and social stability and relative ethnic homogeneity, Slovenia was able to avoid ethnic tensions characteristic for the rest of the ex-Yugoslavia (see Benderley and Craft 1994). In most cases, Slovenia has been able to make use of these advantages for its further development. Though some problems, which are typical for the post-communist transition, still remain.

The major societal issues reflected by the social sciences in Slovenia can be specified as follows: democratisation, identity, globalisation and EU integration, marketisation and social cohesion.

DEMOCRATISATION AND CIVIL SOCIETY

The issue of democratisation consists of several important aspects within Slovene society:

1. It concerns the development of democratic political institutions, which are enabling efficient decision-making and implementation of decisions. Efficiency is very much needed for the transformation towards democracy and for the establishment of a national statehood.

2. Democratisation is related to the rise of a civil society which is able to articulate specific interests and to control the leadership.

3. The development of democratic and efficient leadership implies the cultivation of competitive elites able to control each other.

4. Last but not least, democratisation requires the development of a specific political culture which is based on a general consensus concerning major values and norms.

The institutions of the emerging democratic political system have been studied mostly by political scientists. Their attention has been focused on the legislative branch, which has actually undergone great changes. Both democratisation and statehood have required the establishment of a Chamber that is smaller, more transparent and more efficient than the former Assembly inherited from the Socialist Republic of Slovenia. Following this line of changes, a new Parliament was established in 1992 in accordance with the new Constitution. The Slovene parliament has been studied extensively from the point of view of its structure and the decision-making processes (Zajc 2000). Some regional comparisons were carried out concerning the role of political parties within the Parliament and the role of parliamentary committees in Slovenia and in other Central-European parliaments (Zajc 1996). …