Vladimir Shlapentokh and Christopher Vanderpool
History is the empirical rack upon which ideologies, utopian visions, and theories are stretched and torn apart. People and their leaders create events that shatter the characterizations, myths, and paradigms held by others and even themselves. Beliefs and theories that supposedly aided us in understanding how a nation or society acted and how its future was to unfold blind us from considering vast undercurrents of structural discontinuities and strain that are building up to a flood of new forms of social patterns and change. Such has been the case in the devolution of communist systems and the evolution of a postcommunist world.
Leaders and peoples in nation-states throughout the world believed that the East-West conflict was as permanent as the structured inequality between the North and South in the world system. Cold war ideologies defined the political, economic, and social chasms that divided the communist and noncommunist worlds. Bourgeois-dominated political economies clashed with communist-dominated socialized production systems. Most important, social and historical change within each system was seen as an outcome of internal forces generated by democratic capitalist class systems or by authoritarian centralized party bureaucracies.
Within the last decade, history has challenged the worldviews scholars, political leaders, and others had of the nature, potential, and future of communist and noncommunist states. Within the social sciences, theories of class analysis based on Marx's original conceptualizations were used to explain processes of inequality and social change within and between societies in the global system. Most scholars in the West found it difficult to apply class theory to the socialized production sys-