East European Communities: The Struggle for Balance in Turbulent Times

By David A. Kideckel | Go to book overview

difference: all things are possible if there is enough flexibility and initiative. But it is not without its price. The family members all derive income from several sources, and status from different ones. Being a French teacher gives status but no money; agriculture gives money but no status.

It appears, however, that whereas the peasants seem to be able to become more autonomous units, the functionaries may be forced to have to collaborate more with each other. It is this kind of creativity, a creativity wrought with tensions, which is the testing ground of "transitional" society. How do families go from status to contract ties? To what extent do formal firms succeed precisely because of informal means? How does one calculate a balance between piano lessons (cultural capital) and tractor use (application of capital)? It is these kinds of mechanisms which characterize the transition in Feldioara.


Some Conclusions

In situations where the frameworks for human action are being restructured, and where these restructurations are poorly understood by the actors, the operating principle of "all things are possible, nothing is certain" takes on crucial importance. People in transitional Romania are constantly testing their limits and expanding their horizons. In the geographic world where the West takes on significance, and in the social world where one's status relative to others suddenly rises or falls, people must expend considerable efforts to locate their place in as changing world.

It is in these individual, everyday practices of trying to locate oneself, to plot one's horizons, that the transition is having its effect. Invoking phrases like "privatization," "democratic institutions" and "civil society," may be useful as rhetorical devices, and may even be effective code words for East Europeans making connections with the West. But these clichs tell us little about the transition going on in real communities, in the way people evaluate social relations, and in the way new practices arise in a world which is both uncertain and full of open horizons.

In this sense, the "transition" in Romania is a permanent state of affairs.


References

Hann, C. M. 1985. A Village without Solidarity. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Hannerz, Ulf. 1992. Cultural Complexity. New York: Columbia.

Kideckel, David A. 1993. The Solitude of Collectivism: Romanian Villagers to the Revolution and Beyond. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Milosz, Czeslaw, 1952 ( 1981). The Captive Mind. New York: Vintage.

Sampson, Steven. 1983. "Bureaucracy and Corruption as Anthropological Problems: A Case study from Romania". Folk ( Copenhagen) 25:63-97.

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