A Comparative Perspective on Latin America and Eastern Europe
Edited by Werner Baer and Joseph L. Love
Chapter 7: Trajectories of East European transformation: global influence and local legacies
Jacek Kochanowicz INTRODUCTION Communism collapsed in an era of globalization. This last word may be vague and overused, but it reminds us that it seems extremely difficult today to set as an agenda the creation of an economic system that would differ in principle from a capitalist market economy. It is also implausible to declare the intention of creating a political system other than democracy. Thus, leaders of societies leaving communism behind found themselves under pressure to construct democratic capitalism. In a most direct way, this pressure came from international financial institutions and from governments of the most developed countries. In a more subtle way, it was exerted by the dominant ideology of the end of the 20th century, liberalism, as well as by the attraction of the life style of western consumer societies. In some post-communist societies, this pressure also came from below, from the middle classes, which had emerged at the later stages of communism. The price of not taking this route looked high – marginalization within the international community and exclusion from the possibility of modernization. Thus, many of the leaders declared at the beginning that they intended to take the liberal-democratic, capitalist route. After ten years, it is worthwhile to take stock, to see who achieved what, which routes were actually taken, and where they led. This is what this chapter intends to do, looking from a bird’s eye perspective on the European part of the post-communist world. The purpose is, first, to single out these countries...
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