Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Postcommunism from Within

Postcommunism from Within: Social Justice, Mobilization, and Hegemony

Jan Kubik
Amy Linch
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 453
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Postcommunism from Within
    Book Description:

    This is a much needed collection.... In bringing together a series of essays focused on gender, poverty, and corruption, the book is a must for anyone who wants to develop a multifaceted and nuanced understanding of the far-reaching changes of the past two decades. - Michael Bernhard, author ofInstitutions and the Fate of Democracy: Germany and Poland in the Twentieth CenturyWhile the decline of communism in the late twentieth century brought democracy, political freedom, and better economic prospects for many people, it also produced massive social dislocation and engendered social problems that were far less pronounced under the old regimes. The fall of state socialism led to enormously complex political, economic, social, and cultural transformations, and while political liberalization was a lofty goal, it was neither uniform in its effects nor unqualified in its benefits.Postcommunism from Withinforegrounds the diversity of the historical experiences and current realities of people in the postcommunist region in examining how they are responding to these monumental changes at home.The original essays in this volume lay out a bold new approach to research on the postcommunist region, and to democratization studies more broadly, that focuses on the social and cultural microprocesses behind political and economic transformation. Thematic essays by eminent scholars of postcommunism from across the social sciences are supported by case studies to demonstrate the limitations of current democratization paradigms and suggest ways of building categories of research that more closely capture the role of vernacular knowledge in demanding, creating, and adapting to institutional change. A novel approach to understanding one of the greatest political and social transformations in recent history,Postcommunism from Withinexplores not just how citizens respond to political and economic restructuring engineered at the top but also how people enact their own visions of life, politics, and justice by responding to daily challenges.Jan Kubikis Professor and Chair in the Department of Political Science at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His publications includeAnthropology and Political Science(with Myron Aronoff) andThe Power of Symbols against the Symbols of Power.Amy Linchis a lecturer in Political Theory at Pennsylvania State University. She is an editor of theInternational Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest: 1500 to the Present.A co-publication of New York University Press and the Social Science Research Council

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2425-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Seteney Shami
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  7. INTRODUCTION. Postcommunism in a New Key: Bottom Up and Inside Out
    (pp. 1-22)
    Amy Linch

    The fall of state socialism generated enormously complex political, economic, social, and cultural transformations. In many countries these changes brought democracy, political freedom, and better economic prospects for large segments of the population. Yet, at the same time, the transformation from communism produced massive social dislocation and engendered social problems that were far less pronounced under the old regime. Furthermore, where it occurred, political liberalization did not always represent a net improvement in people’s lives. In some cases, cultural narratives long contained by the communist state—or developed in reaction to communist ideology—created conditions for public endorsement of patriarchal,...


    • [PART ONE: Introduction]
      (pp. 23-26)
      Amy Linch

      How might research on the postcommunist region incorporate people as agents actively shaping their own political reality, on the one hand, and accurately assess the impact of transformation, on the other? In this section, Jan Kubik approaches this problem from the point of view of interpretive social science, emphasizing the importance ofemicknowledge in understanding how political change occurs within a given place and time. Tom Wolfe and John Pickles consider the problem through a critical lens that interrogates the influence of global institutions and interests on the way research problems are formulated in the first place. Both chapters...

    • CHAPTER ONE From Transitology to Contextual Holism: A Theoretical Trajectory of Postcommunist Studies
      (pp. 27-94)
      Jan Kubik

      My goal in this chapter is to outline an approach to postcommunism that I labelcontextual holism.¹ Its elements are evident but usually underarticulated and unsystemized in the best literature on the subject. Its full articulation is as yet premature, but its theoretical contours are already clear enough to venture a preliminary outline. Practitioners of this approach emphasize the complexity and multidimensionality of the postcommunist transformations, showing renewed interest in culture, institutions, and history. There are other approaches. As in most areas of social science, some scholars of postcommunism move in the direction of increased parsimony and formalization, by and...

    • CHAPTER TWO Social Justice, Social Science, and the Complexities of Postsocialism
      (pp. 95-134)
      Thomas C. Wolfe and John Pickles

      At the outset we would like to state our interest in, and commitment to, the concerns that animate the broader project of this volume, concerns about the qualities of lives led and the well-being of the populations of the states of Central and Eastern Europe. The conceptual lens of social justice is invaluable to any evaluation of the effects of the deep structural transformations that have affected the region since 1989 and have reworked prior patterns of well-being and what constitutes justice in important and diverse ways (political, economic, cultural, and military). One broad approach to this task is to...


    • [PART TWO: Introduction]
      (pp. 135-138)
      Amy Linch

      A view of the postcommunist region through the lens of gender demonstrates the limitations of macro measures of democratization in assessing social and political freedom. As Joanna Regulska and Magdalena Grabowska point out in their analysis of women’s activism in postcommunist Europe, neither democratic consolidation nor economic reforms are reliable indicators of gender justice. Reflecting both Kubik’s endorsement of historically contextualized, ethnographically informed research, and Wolfe and Pickle’s concern with the conceptual blinders imposed by hegemonic paradigms in democratization studies, Regulska and Grabowska take as their point of departure the ways women are responding to the problems they face in...

    • CHAPTER THREE Social Justice, Hegemony, and Women’s Mobilizations
      (pp. 139-190)
      Joanna Regulska and Magdalena Grabowska

      More than twenty years after the fall of state socialism, marginalization in social, economic, and political life remains a fact of daily existence for many women around the globe. Women responded to their circumstances by becoming active agents of change, inspiring, initiating, mediating, negotiating, and advocating for “gender equality” and other “social justice” concerns. In Central and Eastern Europe, and the Caucacus women’s grassroots struggles around these issues are thematically and organizationally rooted in the social and political movements of the region. However, the discourses of resistance employed in locally situated women’s movements also intersect with global and transnational discourses...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Grounds for Hope? Voices of Feminism and Women’s Activism in Romania
      (pp. 191-210)
      Laura Lovin

      At a conference entitled Gender and Language held in Athens in 2005, cultural theorist Norman Fairclough offered this simplified, but from his perspective, accurate picture of “contemporary Romania with regard to gender relations”: rural, traditionalist, patriarchal, and violent, yet consumerist, postfeminist, and conforming with EU directives. Romania’s spatio-temporality of unaccomplished modernity, surprisingly synchronized legislation, and manifestations of consumerist postfeminism are cartoonlike in their contradictions. This “contemporary Romania,” and the implied criteria for what counts as “contemporary” are my concern here. Too often, despite the critiques of paradigms of linear development, progress, and modernity, “contemporary” implies economic development and the achievement...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Transformation to Democracy: The Struggles of Georgian Women
      (pp. 211-226)
      Medea Badashvili

      Women’s struggle for social and political equality is shaped by historical, political, social, economic, ethnic, and everyday life characteristics of the particular countries in which they live. Feminism in the Soviet Union developed quite differently than it did in the West, where there was also significant variation across political context. In the Soviet Union the women’s movement was designated by the Communist Party to deal with “women’s issues.” Women’s political participation and institutional equality were established from the top down through the creation of a women’s committee and legal declaration of equality of the sexes. Under communism the state ensured...


    • [PART THREE: Introduction]
      (pp. 227-228)
      Amy Linch

      Szelenyi and Wilk’s analysis demonstrates the legacy of state socialism in the (lack of) capacity of postcommunist governments to address the problems wrought by that system. Efforts to reform the “great distributive system” were frustrated by democratic processes as well as by popular mobilization. According to their analysis, the exceptional growth rates that allowed the early reforming countries to support their (unreformed) social institutions relied on the countries’ attractiveness to foreign investors. As other countries (particularly Romania and Bulgaria) instituted neoliberal reforms, their cheaper pool of labor drew investment away from pioneer reformers such as Poland and Hungary. These countries...

    • CHAPTER SIX Poverty and Popular Mobilization in Postcommunist Capitalist Regimes
      (pp. 229-264)
      Ivan Szelenyi and Katarzyna Wilk

      Central and Eastern Europe saw an explosion of poverty and inequality after the fall of communism. According to World Bank estimates, during the late 1980s in the former Eurasian socialist countries less than one out of twenty-five people lived below the “absolute poverty line” of $2.15 a day. Ten years later one out of five people subsisted on less than $2.15 a day (The World Bank 2000, 1). Income inequality increased dramatically during the same period, to the point where the region that had been among the most egalitarian in the world became one of the most unequal. GINI coefficients...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN “Scandalous Ethnicity” and “Victimized Ethnonationalism”: Pejorative Representations of Roma in the Romanian Mainstream Media After January 2007
      (pp. 265-292)
      Alina Vamanu and Iulian Vamanu

      On March 3, 2009, a leading Romanian daily,Jurnalul Naţional(National Journal), featured an article titled, “Proposal byJurnalul Naţional. ‘Ţigan’ instead of ‘Roma.’” The article called for a popular legislative initiative to replace the term “Roma” with the traditional ethnic label “Ţigan”¹ in official documents referring to the Roma minority in Romania and abroad. While “Roma” is the politically correct and self-chosen name of this ethnic minority, “Ţigan” has strong pejorative connotations. The “argument” put forward by this media piece is worth quoting at length:

      The recurrence of crimes committed by Ţigani in Italy and elsewhere and the association...


    • [PART FOUR: Introduction]
      (pp. 293-296)
      Amy Linch

      Reflecting Kubik’s call for attention to informality and contextualized interpretation of signifying practices, as well as Wolfe and Pickles’ emphasis on “hinterlands,” Alena Ledeneva traces the origins of the “corruption paradigm” and examines its relevance to the postcommunist context. She argues that the corruption paradigm is a construction of international financial agencies that was imposed on the region as a condition of European Union candidacy and participation in global markets. Ledeneva challenges the paradigm’s assumptions that “corruption” can be defined, measured, and eliminated without regard for the relational context in which particular behavior occurs. Corruption campaigns assume the universal validity...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT A Critique of the Global Corruption “Paradigm”
      (pp. 297-332)
      Alena V. Ledeneva

      The corruption “paradigm” prevalent in both scholarly and policy circles was consolidated in the 1990s. In an IMF Working Paper, Vito Tanzi (1997) distinguished a number of factors that contributed to the salience of corruption and linked them to the breakdown of communism and postcommunist transformations. The factors include the collapse of the centrally planned economies; an increase in the number of democracies with free media; increased contact between countries and individuals due to globalization; the heightened role of international organizations, such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Organization for European Cooperation and Development in national...

    • CHAPTER NINE Informal Payments to Doctors: Corruption or Social Protest?
      (pp. 333-345)
      Rasma Karklins

      Few social scientists have explored the significance of unofficial payments to medical personnel in postcommunist health-care systems, even though the practice is controversial and widespread. Public interpretations of the significance of informal payments differ considerably, as illustrated by the unexpected election of an orthopedic surgeon to the Latvian presidency in the summer of 2007. After being nominated to this august position, Valdis Zatlers revealed that for years he had taken “gratitude money” in his practice as a surgeon. He added that the practice is uncomfortable to patients and doctors alike and that it was high time to solve the issues...

    • CHAPTER TEN Informal Relations in Public Procurement: The Case of East Central and South Eastern Europe
      (pp. 346-384)
      Åse Berit Grødeland

      In recent years corruption related to public procurement has become an important public issue both in Eastern and Western Europe.¹ Procurement accounts for an estimated 15 percent of GDP in the OECD area, while among non-OECD states the figure is even higher.² Transparency and fairness in the disbursal of these funds became salient in many postcommunist countries as a consequence of European Union candidacy or aspiration for membership.³ The European Union, meanwhile, upgraded its directives on public procurement in an effort to reduce procurement-related corruption within the expanding common European area.⁴

      This study examines how, at what stage, and why...

  12. AFTERWORD. Mobilizing Justice Across Hegemonies in Place: Critical Postcommunist Vernaculars
    (pp. 385-408)
    Michael D. Kennedy

    Place matters.¹ World regions differ in the ways they shape global cultural political frameworks that guide scholarship, policy, and practice. A region’s more immediate history and culture is critical to its social dynamics of course, but different regions’ articulation through global technologies of power and culture vary in consequential ways. And the accumulated regional inflections of those global formations shape the ways in which hegemonies work, movements respond, and justice is defined.

    I write these words in the immediate reflection of the public mobilizations in Egypt. Shiva Balaghi and I discuss such general propositions about regional influences frequently, but they...

  13. About the Contributors
    (pp. 409-416)
  14. Index
    (pp. 417-440)