American political scientist Ken Jowitt is well known for his unorthodox, innovative approaches to communist and postcommunist societies. In this article he insists on the importance of the Leninist “inheritance” for understanding both Communism's collapse and the aftermath of Soviet-style regimes. Cultural and political traditions, memories, and habits are critical in the making of the new polities. There is no reason to celebrate the advent of an open society as the only possible outcome of the Leninist wreckage. Indeed, as Jowitt argues (in agreement with Daniel Chirot, Tony Judt and G.M. Tamás), the region's traditions are not primarily liberal Fascism, socialism, and peasantism (not to speak of clericalism and corporatism) were major trends within Eastern Europe's inter-war political cultures, and the possibility of their comeback cannot be easily discarded. In the same vein, Leninist authoritarian collectivist political and mental patterns will continue to affect these societies, in spite of the strong anticommunist rhetoric of the new elites.
Jowitt's sobering contribution complements the analyses of the revolutions of 1989 proposed by Chirot, Eisenstadt, and Ackerman in that he expresses serious doubts regarding the prospects for a fast and relatively smooth development of liberal democratic governments in the region. In his view, the absence of ideologically-defined political attachments leads to endemic political fragmentation and favors authoritarian developments (what he calls “liberal authoritarianism”). His warnings regarding the risk of isolating Eastern Europe from the West should not be underestimated: a liberal “fortress Europe” excluding the East will leave the postcommunist countries hostage to dangerous experiments of ethnocentric, authoritarian populism.
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Eastern Europe's boundaries-political, ideological, economic, and military-have been radically redefined twice in less than a century. At the end of World War I, “the disappearance of the Austro-Hungarian Empire