The Transformation of Labour Relations: Restructuring and Privatization in Eastern Europe and Russia

By J. E. M. Thirkell; K. Petkov et al. | Go to book overview

9
The Limitations of Transference, Imitation, and Imposition

This final chapter concludes the exploration of the nature of change and development in Eastern European and Russian labour relations. It combines an assessment of the processes of transference, imitation, and imposition which have accompanied the transformation of labour relations in the countries under consideration with an evaluation of the strategies of the principal agents. As throughout the volume, the impact of legacies from the previous regimes are examined, at the levels of power and authority, institutions and behaviour and beliefs. The discussion is drawn together by assessing, in the light of these considerations, the extent of institutionalization of new labourrelations models and whether the countries have begun to move in the direction of Western-style labour relations.


COMPARATIVE TRANSFORMATIONS

In assessing what has happened in Eastern Europe it is appropriate to discuss the features which distinguish it from other transitions and which influence the trajectories of labour relations. As noted in Chapter 3, the IFI consider the transformations in Eastern Europe as one of several taking place in the global economy which includes Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and east Asia. In other transitions, with the exception of China, varying forms of capitalism and capitalist institutions were already established, though to different degrees, and their economies were open to world markets and prices. Such institutions were absent in Eastern Europe, where the socialist system meant the integration of political control with command over the management of the economy. Although agriculture was important, all the economies of Eastern Europe were highly industrialized. Industrialization had been a primary political goal and all the economies were integrated through CMEA. A highly developed and distinctive model of labour relations had been created congruent with the organization of the economy. As Slomp ( 1990: 170) characterized it, 'the subordination of labour relations to Communist Party politics, [was] the central characteristic of the Soviet model'.

The relationship between political and economic changes in Eastern Europe and Russia contrasts with that of other regions and countries. All of the countries faced a growing economic crisis in the late 1980s (see, e.g., Hethy 1991: 345-6). Reforms to decentralize economic management of the

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