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That contretemps paid tribute to mostly meteoric propinquity yet not completely absent of Romanian intellectual life towards the professional networks of the West [3]. The recovery of the ideological heritage of the Romanian economic school in the first half of the XX century, so longed for after , did not contain the germs of a decisive pro-liberalization commitment. It had grown under the sign of French neomercantilism and German historiography, not embracing neoclassic marginalism, which became the language of Western economic thinking and neoliberalism.

Those in the second category grouped themselves in the left-hand side of democracy, somewhere between rhetorical neo-Marxism and instrumental Keynesianism, and dominated the beginnings of transition [5].

Capitalism for All or Capitalism for the Few?

The new institutionalism [8] was conceived as a both retrospective and prospective revelation about the destinies of the revolutions in the former socialist camp. This move of accent derailed and somehow deferred the mental regeneration of the general public.


  • Eastern Europe's Postcommunist Transformations.
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The central bank reports or the publications of newly created professional associations and research centers SOREC [11] , CEROPE [12] , by means of translations or original studies, have been the first vectors to disseminate the pro-liberalization literature. Having a professional structure that claims interwar origins AGER [13] , they also had a more generous political access, favoured by the visible lines of continuity between the pre and post regimes in Bucharest.

But the doctrinal demarcations cannot have been clear-cut in the early years of the transition because the great schools and the currents of thought had not fully been implanted and had no generations of internal production. What grouped economists was a mixture of personal experiences and expectations that filtered out the reading and lessons learned from them.

The society, exposed to contradictory narratives, internalized the ambiguities of fault lines in the community of specialists and opinion makers.

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Welcome back. Modes of transition, results of initial elections and elite choices alone could not convincingly explain the diverging paths of transformations across the region. Thus, elite choices and bargains in the moment of transition came to be considered not so much a cause of the outcome but a part of it that needed to be explained. Analytical lenses were therefore turned increasingly to the past, with recent work emphasizing the importance of historical legacies at the expense of the policy and institutional choices stressed in the earlier literature.

More unexpectedly, long-run historical legacies spanning decades and even centuries are accorded more explanatory power than recent communist legacies. There is also growing evidence that structural factors, such as levels of social and economic development, specific geographical location and contingent events such as conflicts, wars, natural disasters or the involvement of external actors can greatly influence the political outcomes of regime change.

From such a perspective, postcommunist political transformations should be viewed as part of an ongoing and long-term historical process of democratization across the European continent, from which communist rule was but a temporary diversion. This is especially true for countries of East-Central Europe that historically gravitated toward the Western core of the continent.

Such a long historical perspective suggests remarkable continuities with the past, which are evident in institutional choices, elite and public preferences, contours of political competition and more generally in political cultures. Finally, it is increasingly clear that the quest for democracy may end up as easily in authoritarianism as in consolidated democracy, and the evidence suggests that reversing course once a path is set is highly unlikely.

Since , there has not been a single postcommunist country that significantly improved its Freedom House political score; however, there was no significant backsliding either. The new political regimes that emerged after the postcommunist transition seem to be consolidated across the region.

Divergent Paths in Post-Communist Transformation. Capitalism for All or Capitalism for the Few?

The record of postcommunist transformations raises important questions for policymakers. Explanations emphasizing geographic locations, deep historical preconditions and affinities for dense relations with the West pose significant limitations to our thinking about policy lessons that can be transferable to other regions.

Still, do any general policy lessons emerge from the specific experiences of the postcommunist transitions, both failed and successful? First of all, we know that structural factors and various historical legacies and preconditions matter a great deal. The most developed and affluent countries of the region at the beginning of transition are democracies today, with the exception of Russia.

Thus, we should not easily dismiss the older social science literature on the preconditions for democracy that carefully examines the relationship between various social, cultural and economic factors and the durability of democratic outcomes. The contemporary dilemma is not so much how to move to democracy.

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The real issue is how to prevent the deterioration of democratic practices once democratic institutions are established and how to halt backsliding into authoritarian rule. Since institutional engineering has its limits, the obvious policy strategy is to build democracy-friendly conditions by supporting economic and social development as well as cultural modernization and by fostering dense relations with the West, with the long-term goal being to improve the environment for democracy to take root.

If various economic, social and cultural preconditions of democracy are important, we need to turn our attention away from finding short-term institutional fixes and focus on long-term policy strategies. Promoting and improving education and academic exchanges, information flows, cultural exchanges, economic development, civil society building and travel should be at the center of democracy promotion.

The experiences of the Cold War, when various policies were aimed at supporting human rights while promoting Western values and the free flow of knowledge and information, should not be forgotten. Second, while institutional choices may be secondary and contingent upon the constitutional tradition of a state, that does not mean that institutional design should be neglected.

Divergent Paths in Post-Communist Transformation

Bosnia and Herzegovina offers a lesson to avoid. Its institutional system is composed of one state, two autonomous entities, three peoples and five layers of governance. This results in the highest per capita number of presidents, prime ministers and ministers in the world. The general lesson emerging from cases of successful democratization in the postcommunist world is that institutions that promote the dispersion of political and economic power and the inclusion of various actors in policymaking processes are the most conducive to facilitating democratic consolidation.

But setting goals that are too ambitious is self-defeating. Efforts to secure a multitude of well-intended outcomes not only creates unnecessary and confusing complexity, but may have just the opposite of the desired effect, hardening the boundaries among various groups and discouraging cooperation.

Third, proximity, cultural ties and historically friendly relations with the West are important.

Divergent Paths in Post-Communist Transformation by O. Havrylyshyn | Waterstones

It is also easier to consolidate democracy in a democratic neighborhood and more difficult to sustain it in a nondemocratic environment. Sharing borders with developed democracies or being in their immediate vicinity is also helpful, as is a less peripheral position in the global economic system.

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Thus, geography matters a great deal. Still, though geographic locations are fixed, international relations are flexible. It is evident that the most successful postcommunist countries established the closest relations with the EU and benefited from European aid and monitoring, institutional and knowledge transfers, foreign investment and, above all, the tangible prospect of EU membership as a reward for comprehensive political and economic reforms.

The benefits and constraints offered by the EU shaped the character of domestic political competition, informed the agendas of many political and economic actors and expanded opportunities for reformers. Although the EU enlargement process may have run its course and may be impossible to replicate in other contexts, making a comprehensive effort to support democratic transformations through a variety of political and economic instruments and long-term commitments is crucial.


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Both the Marshall Plan in the re-democratization of Western Europe after World War II and the EU enlargement process in the postcommunist period are good examples of sustained long-term commitments. Though shared borders are not necessary for such instruments to be utilized successfully, mutual trust, cultural affinity and meaningful incentives are essential. And even then, there will always be limits to the effectiveness of external actors.

Fourth, having previous democratic experience helps. Most successful Eastern European democracies had democratic episodes in the past and struggled, often unsuccessfully, to build and maintain democratic institutions.

In fact, such failures to sustain democracy in the past may help to consolidate it in the future. Therefore, authoritarian reversals, while regrettable, should only increase efforts to support ties to the West as well as domestic political opposition and civil society actors. The democracy-building process in Western Europe lasted more than two centuries and witnessed many failures and reversals. In the struggle for democracy, there are no lost causes, only frustrated short-term expectations. Fifth, social welfare questions have haunted regime transitions in the past, and the failure of democracy is often caused by unresolved problems associated with underdevelopment, poverty, unemployment and inequality.

Thus, attention to social safety nets and welfare policies is critical. Successful postcommunist countries maintained a high level of welfare spending, achieved a relatively equitable distribution of income and pursued active social policies. In fact, one of the most striking features of the successful East-Central European transitions was an early commitment to rapid welfare reform and social compensation that partially sheltered vulnerable groups, such as pensioners or workers in restructured industries.