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Cultural Formations of Postcommunism: Emancipation, Transition, Nation, and War

Michael D. Kennedy
Series: Contradictions
Volume: 15
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Cultural Formations of Postcommunism
    Book Description:

    “Transition” is the name typically given to the time of radical change following the fall of communism, connoting a shift from planned to market economy, from dictatorship to democracy. Transition is also, in Michael Kennedy’s analysis, a culture in its own right-with its own contentions, repressions, and unrealized potentials. By elaborating transition as a culture of power and viewing it in its complex relation to emancipation, nationalism, and war, Kennedy’s book clarifies the transformations of postcommunism as well as, more generally, the ways in which culture articulates social change. Contradictions Series, volume 15

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9313-9
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction: Cultural Formations of Postcommunism
    (pp. 1-43)

    It is a cliché. The world was dramatically transformed in 1989, much as it was in 1789 or 1848. Political and economic systems and everyday lives were radically changed. Transition typically names this epoch whose two mantras—from plan to market and from dictatorship to democracy—anchored a new liberal hegemony in the world, and especially in Eastern Europe. Although the culture shaping this transition is more contradictory and complex than clichés and mantras suggest, 1989 does signal a change in global culture.

    After 1989, we are much less likely to think about alternative, and desirable, futures in terms of...

  5. One Emancipation and Civil Society
    (pp. 44-90)

    1989 is transition culture’s genesis. At least it is its historical point of departure, but it is rarely its object of critical focus. When 1989 is addressed within transition culture, it is typically discussed in terms of pacts and negotiations on the way to capitalism and democracy. In this approach, analysts treat socialism as background, and focus rather on the strategies of radicals and reformers on both sides of the negotiating divide to maximize their interests in transition.¹ To rest, however, in a world of interests and choices without attending to the framework shaping preferences risks not only the theoretical...

  6. Two Transition Culture and Transition Poverty
    (pp. 91-118)

    Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, countries in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia have been undergoing a dynamic process of economic and social transformation in their effort to create market economies. Throughout the region, countries have varied in the pace at which they have been able to put in place the components of a successful transformation to a market economy—and in their economic performance.¹

    The making of the market, not the construction of civil society per se, became the central problematic of social change after communism’s collapse. To be sure, civil society and the...

  7. Three Transition Culture in Business Practice
    (pp. 119-148)

    The cultural encounters between American business advisers and East European managers in promising companies, in transition culture’s most promising nations, should be one of the places where transition culture finds its smoothest local translations.¹ As in general, the opposition between a socialist past and a capitalist future clearly structures transition culture in business practice. Nonetheless, transition culture in action is a culture transformed. Themeaningsof socialism and capitalism are changed in business practice, through the contest over claims to competence in directing firms. These meanings highlight the lability of transition culture’s categories, and of the cultural formation itself. By...

  8. Four Transition, Freedom, and Nationalism
    (pp. 149-190)

    Mart Laar, the prime minister of Estonia from 1992 to 1994 and chair of the Pro Patria coalition, said the following on May 2, 1995, when reflecting on the meaning of the preceding four years of independence:

    The most basic and vital change of all . . . had to take place in the hearts and minds of Estonia’s people. Without a major readjustment of attitudes, the postcommunist predicament would become a trap, and the nation would never move forward to become a “normal” country with free government and free markets under law. In the era of Soviet-imposed socialism, most...

  9. Five Environmental Problems, Civility, and Loss in Transition
    (pp. 191-225)

    Transition culture is not the only cultural formation informing and interpreting change in communism’s collapse and aftermath. As the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) report suggested, one could understand this period as a time of terrific loss and impoverishment. The elements of this analytical narrative can also be incorporated into a much more obviously political one. The Communist candidate for president in the 1996 Russian elections, Gennady Zhuganov, organized his campaign around such a narrative of loss. He said:

    the road we have traveled for the past five or 10 years. On it we have lost our country, half our...

  10. Six Transition Culture and Nationalism’s Wars
    (pp. 226-269)

    On July 11, 1995, Srebrenica, one of six “safe areas” supposedly secured by United Nations Protection Forces (UNPROFOR) in Bosnia-Herzegovina, was attacked.¹ Bosnian Serbs entered the city and took it over from the 450 Dutch national UN troops assigned to protect it. NATO aircraft launched two strikes against the Serbs, but relented and accepted the takeover when the Serbs threatened to kill thirty-six Dutch troops they held as hostages.

    A Muslim enclave of some forty-five thousand people, many of whom were already refugees from other parts of Bosnia, was destroyed. The Serbs forced some twenty-five thousand people to move to...

  11. Conclusion: Critical Transition Culture
    (pp. 270-302)

    The cultural formations of postcommunism are no simple reflection of something more real. Transition culture has shaped the strategies and practices of all sorts of actors, from the World Bank to those whose lives have been turned around by the movement “from plan to market.” Transition culture has made a radically new process of social change sensible by emphasizing certain processes, competencies, and epistemologies in its elaboration. The study of movement from plan to market, for instance, has privileged not only economic and business expertise in the comparative study and institutional design of transition, but it has also privileged knowledge...

  12. Appendix A: Interview Schedule for Focus Groups
    (pp. 303-308)
  13. Appendix B: Coding Scheme for Focus Group Narratives
    (pp. 309-312)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 313-358)
  15. Index
    (pp. 359-369)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 370-370)