Divide and Pacify

Divide and Pacify: Strategic Social Policies and Political Protests in Post-Communist Democracies

Pieter Vanhuysse
With a Foreword by János Kornai
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Pages: 171
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  • Book Info
    Divide and Pacify
    Book Description:

    Despite dramatic increases in poverty, unemployment, and social inequalities, the Central and Eastern European transitions from communism to market democracy in the 1990s have been remarkably peaceful. This book proposes a new explanation for this unexpected political quiescence. It shows how reforming governments in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have been able to prevent massive waves of strikes and protests by the strategic use of welfare state programs such as pensions and unemployment benefits. Divide and Pacify explains how social policies were used to prevent massive job losses with softening labor market policies, or to split up highly aggrieved groups of workers in precarious jobs by sending some of them onto unemployment benefits and many others onto early retirement and disability pensions. From a narrow economic viewpoint, these policies often appeared to be immensely costly or irresponsibly populist. Yet a more inclusive social-scientific perspective can shed new light on these seemingly irrational policies by pointing to deeper political motives and wider sociological consequences.

    eISBN: 978-615-5211-44-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Figures
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    János Kornai

    While I am writing these lines, cars are aflame in the suburbs of Paris and other French cities. A state founded on the rule of law can obviously not tolerate vandalism. It should protect order and private property, and punish violent transgressions of the law. But that, of course, cannot be the only response. It is equally important for political decision-makers, their advisors, and researchers of social phenomena to explore what factors have led to these mass events. What social circumstances have generated the frustration of those young people who commit these acts of vandalism, and led to their rage...

  6. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xix-xx)
  7. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Transitions to democracy, especially when accompanied by deep economic reforms, have often led to massive strikes and protests. Periods of expanding political opportunities have historically been conducive to large-scale protest cycles and to the emergence of more disruptive and violent protest repertoires (Tarrow, 1989; Tilly, 2003). Generally speaking, democracies can be expected to be more protest-prone than authoritarian systems because they allow their citizens greater freedoms of expression. For instance, strikes have been almost three times as frequent in democracies as in authoritarian regimes in the twentieth century, and demonstrations and riots almost twice as frequent (Przeworski et al., 2000)....

  8. Chapter 2 The Unexpected Peacefulness of Transitions
    (pp. 9-28)

    Deep economic reforms, however urgent, often have short and turbulent life spans. During the 1970s and 1980s, a large number of countries in Latin America and the developing world experienced repeated waves of protests, strikes, riots, and casualties in reaction to socially costly austerity policies. By many yardsticks, the emerging democracies of Central and Eastern Europe found themselves in similar conditions shortly after 1989. Expanding protest opportunities combined with higher-than-expected social costs in the form of generally increasing poverty rates and unemployment levels, and falling real wages, real incomes, and output levels. Not surprisingly therefore, a number of observers feared...

  9. Chapter 3 Political Quiescence despite Conditions for Conflict
    (pp. 29-48)

    Enjoying the benefit of hindsight, it is often easy to forget the genuine uncertainties experienced by actors at a time when what is history today was still unfolding. Judging by many variables traditionally associated with industrial action, and seen through the lens of 1990, post-communist democracies were actually very likely to experience large-scale protests. Surging national unemployment rates in Hungary and Poland at 8 and 12 percent in 1991, and at 12 and 14 percent in 1992, often masked local-level employment losses in particular regions that were many times more dramatic. So how best to explain the low levels of...

  10. Chapter 4 Preventing Protests: Divide and Pacify as Political Strategy
    (pp. 49-72)

    Throughout history, political stability and social order have generally been prerequisites for economic growth and prosperity.¹ Assuming that early post-communist governments considered large-scale disruption by reform losers to be likely, how could they be expected to react? A wide range of strategies could be adopted in this context, but this chapter focuses on one particular strategy. The guiding assumption throughout is that in the initial stages of the transition, governments attached a high priority to low levels of disruption in the polity, whatever else they wanted otherwise. Governments in liberal democracy cannot reduce and should not repress all forms of...

  11. Chapter 5 The Great Abnormal Pensioner Booms: Strategic Social Policies in Practice
    (pp. 73-96)

    How have post-communist governments allocated their scarce resources towards different social groups? In keeping with Taylor’s (1988a) emphasis that we need both individualist explanations of structures and other macro-phenomena and structuralist explanations of individual attitudes and beliefs, I have indicated how governments could reduce disruptive protests by splitting up selected groups of threatened workers into different work–welfare categories. This chapter discusses stylized evidence from Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic.¹ The aim is to draw together a number of indicators that concisely capture state social policies towards various work–welfare groups. These indicators can be used to check whether...

  12. Chapter 6 Peaceful Pathways: The Political Economy of Post-Communist Welfare
    (pp. 97-132)

    Why, far from retrenching maturing pensions systems, did resource-constrained governments pass early laws that positively worsened pension finances? How did the Great Abnormal Pensioner Booms of the early 1990s affect the Hungarian and Polish welfare regimes in later years? What, if anything, justified the huge public-financial cost of these booms? Why was the cost incurred at all? This chapter focuses more closely on the temporal dynamics of the social policy choices made by post-communist governments. Path dependence theories can help to explain the persistent differences in the larger welfare pathways taken by these societies. Once-contingent policy choices have shaped future...

  13. Chapter 7 Conclusions
    (pp. 133-140)

    The 1990s have been a high-charged, fast-paced decade in Central and Eastern Europe. These years have seen great hopes, widespread disappointments and, crucially, stunning accomplishments in reforming communist states into liberal market democracies. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the mass demonstrations at Prague’s Wenceslaus Square and the many other popular movements that precipitated the demise of communism in the heady days of late 1989 were followed by socially costly yet politically peaceful transition years. To many observers, this post-communist quiescence was theoretically unexpected and historically surprising. This book has put forward a new set of explanations for this puzzle....

  14. References
    (pp. 141-164)
  15. Index of Names
    (pp. 165-166)
  16. Subject Index
    (pp. 167-170)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 171-171)