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

By Beverly Crawford | Go to book overview

6
Alternatives of Transformation: Choices and Determinants-- East-Central Europe in the 1990s

IVAN T. BEREND

At the beginning of the fifth year of transition in the post-communist countries, it pays to recall the major conceptual changes that characterized the initial phase of transformation.

The transition began with rather uncertain and foggy concepts on the future. Radical reformers and uncompromising opposition leaders who gathered around the cradle of the newly born system were decisive in developing it as a proper democracy, a "Rechtsstaat" and an efficient (equated with market-oriented) economic regime, able to react and adjust to a transforming world economy. However, the political-ideological leaders of the transition expressed rather more unclarified views: Their ideals were a kind of mixture of efficient laissez-faire capitalism; worker self-managerial participation in a "Sozialpartnerschaft," Scandinavian Socialism; a mixed economy and ownership; and an East European populist "Third Road" between capitalism and socialism.

At the first stage, dissident intellectuals, writers, philosophers, and sociologists described their dreams of an ideal society. They had no hope of realizing their ideas, and they expressed their views at "flying university" lectures and in Samizdat publications. Several of them dreamed of a society that was not compromised by consumerism. Analyzing and criticizing "post-totalitarian" socialism in his "Power of the Powerless," President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic expressed his rather negative conviction about consumer societies and maintained that state socialism was only one version of it. 1 The strong and militant Polish Solidarity, as well as Yugoslav reformers, sympathized with worker self-management, a system of "real" democracy where firms and society are directly managed by

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