Transformation as modernisation
Sociological readings of post-communist lifeworlds
Shortly before the collapse of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia recognition grew among social scientists that socio-cultural networks at the micro-level were an important site for the generation of social capital and civic potential. 'Makeshift' institutions, a 'second' economy and 'second' society, together with a 'private' public discourse were elements of state socialist society with part-functional, part-disfunctional consequences, depending on the timescale of observation. Such 'islands of positive deviation' met social needs which the system failed, and compensated in some measure for the 'hollowing out' of the meso-sphere of civil society. Whereas practices sustained and/or promoted within the 'official sphere' had problematic implications for the process of democratisation, it seemed plausible, on the cusp of the post-communist era, that some of the structures and modes of behaviour developed within the 'second society' could become a reservoir of energy for the recolonisation of civil society or the emergence of new social actors substantially interested in democratisation and marketisation (Machonin and Tuček 1996:15).
By naming and locating these positive and negative potentials, Czech and Slovak sociologists in the 1980s had formulated a critique of the prevailing system, without explicitly committing themselves to a competing macro-social or macro-economic regulatory principle (such as capitalism). Róbert Roško's reflection on the second congress of the Slovak Sociological Society in September 1989 – 'a retrospective reading of the congress materials gives me a good feeling that we didn't overlook any of the urgent transformational and modernising tasks which ailed Slovakia on the eve of the November [regime] change' (Roško and Macháček 2000:6–7) – is largely valid. 1 In particular some Czech and especially Slovak sociologists had begun to define themselves as activists for a process of social transformation:
An 'activist' sociology is starting to take shape, closely connected with a sociology of everyday life, with creativity, with advisory activities, and