Academia in Upheaval: Origins, Transfers, and Transformations of the Communist Academic Regime in Russia and East Central Europe

By Michael David-Fox; György Péteri | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
On the Legacy of State Socialism in Academia

György Péteri

The experience of societies in Eastern and East Central Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries can be analyzed from the perspective of modernization. In a world where countries are more and more interdependent and integrated, the urge to reach and overtake the summit of a developmental hierarchy is an inevitable corollary to backwardness. In Eric Hobsbawm's apt description, "The history of backward countries in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is the history of trying to catch up with the more advanced world by imitating it. . . . The story of Central and Eastern Europe in the twentieth century is, broadly, that of trying to catch up by following several models one after the other and failing." 1

Focusing on the experience of Russia and East Central Europe allows an assessment of the nature and consequences of the state- socialist model of modernization as these have manifested themselves in the field of academic endeavor. This may show that the costs of the trial and failure of the experiment with state socialism are not restricted to the opportunity costs of that choice (i.e., to the loss of fifty or seventy years). Simultaneously with facing the effects and post-1989 consequences of socialist industrialization, the countries of the region have the painful task of reducing their research and development to levels corresponding to their economic capacity and to what appears to be defensible, sustainable, and reasonably successful in an international environment.

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