Central Europe Review: politics,
society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 2, No 10
13 March 2000

Transitology P O S T - C O M M U N I S M:
"Transitology": Global Dreams and Post-Communist Realities

Rudolf L Tőkés

Nine years after the fact, Western scholars are still searching, albeit with diminishing enthusiasm, for explanations for the collapse of the old regimes in Eastern Europe and the USSR. Their efforts - ranging from comprehensive pathologies to narrowly focused case studies - have yielded four kinds of Western political science literature.[1]:

  1. Synthetic overviews, such as Samuel Huntington's The Third Wave, in which he treats the collapse of Communist regimes as part of a global scheme of "waves of democratization";[2]
  2. Ambitious South-East "transitology" studies by Latin Americanist and Southern European (LA and SE hereafter) area experts who have likened the Soviet-East European (SU and EE hereafter) political outcomes to those that marked the end of authoritarian rule in their parts of the world;[3]
  3. Works by comparativists with an established interest in Communist studies;[4]
  4. More recent writings of mainly younger social scientists with on-site experience, language skills, and academic backgrounds in Chinese, SU and EE studies. These scholars are seeking to make distinctions between generic and unique factors in pre- and post-Communist contexts that contributed to the fall of the old regimes.[5]

Of the "hundred flowers" of post-Communist scholarship, transitology has made the greatest initial impact on the ways political scientists looked at the complex web of substantive and methodological issues surrounding the end of Communist power in the SU and EE. Indeed, at first blush, there was much to commend this approach.

  • By viewing EE developments in an international context, such writings offer sensible caveats about the pitfalls of inductive generalizations from regional and subregional evidence.
  • By reconstructing and proposing complex scenarios of systemic change in LA and SE, such works provide heuristic models for the study of interaction among political, economic, and social forces in various stages of the transition process in Eastern Europe.
  • By identifying the key players and institutions and defining the role of each within generic scenarios of regime change from authoritarian to postauthoritarian (A and PA hereafter) and Communist to post-Communist (C and PC hereafter) regimes, transitology literature highlights apparent similarities between the two kinds of transitions. By developing new semantic tools and concepts of analysis, and adding a half dozen Spanish words to our analytic vocabulary, LA and SE area experts have also refined and specified the operative meaning of terms such as "democratization," "liberalization," and "market," and attached serviceable labels to various transition phenomena.
  • The best of transition literature has made use of insights originally developed by Robert Dahl, Juan Linz, Dunkwart Rustow, Robert Putnam, and other democratic theorists. In so doing, such works have made available an array of useful conceptual tools with which to address transition issues.

The negative side of the ledger is considerably longer and diminishes analytical benefits that transitology might offer for a deeper understanding of what took place and why in the Communist world in 1989/1990. In discussing transitology as a generic proposition, I make a major distinction between policy-oriented, and by implication, "how to?" and "pure" academic transitology.

To the first belong products of Washington think tanks, teams of university-based policy consultants, topical essays and symposia in the National-Endowment-for-Democracy-sponsored Journal of Democracy and other neoliberal journals of opinion, congressional testimony and commissioned studies on foreign policy options and aid programs by US "democracy experts" from academia, government and the foundation community. To respond to the US federal bureaucracy’s demands for policy advice – the number of government agencies with newly funded "democracy programs" grew from two to thirty between 1989 and 1991 – a new "democratization" cottage industry came into being. It is unclear whether the hit-and-run kinds of on-site fact-finding trips by the well-financed "beltway bandits" and their academic partners have contributed to a better understanding of the inner dynamics of political, social and economic sea changes in the post-Communist world. Although there is a small libraryful of field reports, quickie documents and transcripts of learned opinions, very little of this evidence, one might say providentially, has become part of a new academic consensus on post-Communist phenomena.

In any case, to the second category belong works by scholars originally associated with the Woodrow Wilson Center's project "Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Prospects for Democracy in Latin America and Southern Europe" and by their intellectual acolytes – mainly from the US and American-financed "offshore" academic community.

With respect to the first group, at issue are the policy-oriented applied transitologists' hidden ideological assumptions in addressing systemic change in a non-Western and post-Communist context. With respect to the second, the matter concerns academic analysts' vigorously articulated but historically unsound and empirically untenable comparisons between the LA-SE and EE transition processes. Let us consider each proposition.

  • As a throwback to the thrust of modernization and political development literature of the optimistic 1960s, the unstated assumption of many policy analyses on transitions in all three (LA, SE and EE) regions is that they are all parts, irrespective of the cultural context, of a global developmental continuum in which actors act and institutions perform in a modal fashion.
  • It is also assumed that all actors who are seeking to promote change in the old regime toward "democracy" pursue similar strategic objectives, mainly the instauration of institutions of liberal democracy, that is, that of the rule of law, a market economy, and an autonomous civil society.
  • Implicit in policy writings are notions that indigenous belief systems, religion and the political actors' espousal of ethnic, linguistic and cultural identity are parochial concerns and therefore are obstacles to progress toward liberal democracy. Moreover, that these will, and ought to be, swept away by transnational forces of modernization, secularization and the ultimate triumph of a free enterprise-driven global economy.
  • Institutions, values, and system-building precedents of the Western politial community represent an inherently superior alternative model to A and C systems alike.

The difference between Alexis de Tocqueville reviewing the progress of the United States' transition from political independence toward liberal democracy and paradigm-happy Washington-dispatched "democracy consultants" is that of mindset and attitude toward the subject under scrutiny. Tocqueville understood English and learned to live with the cultural context of indigenous politics. His knowledge of history and rapport with the genius loci helped him penetrate the fabric of society and develop profound insights from his study of mid-nineteenth century American politics.

Thus far, few policy experts - and, alas, too few LA and SE academic analysts - have mastered any of the area's languages or made use of the abundance of scholarly works on the region's history, politics and culture by SU and EE comparativists and Russian, Polish, Czech, Slovak and Hungarian social scientists. Unexamined evidence and linguistically difficult-to-access data tend to interfere with a priori notions about foreign political phenomena. In any case, neither Spanish terms nor facile use of words such as glasnost' and perestroika can account for the complexity of transition politics in Eastern Europe.

Transitions: where from?

Next, let us consider the matter of scholarly comparisons between LA-SE and EE scenarios of transition from A to PA and C to PC, respectively. It seems self-evident that the validity and the explanatory powers of comparisons hinge on the demonstrable comparability of the observed phenomena. To stay with the appropriate taxonomy: LA-SA "oranges" and EE "apples" both qualify as subsets of the generic term "fruit," that is, for the purposes of this discussion, a non-democratic political regime. At issue is the difference between an A- and a C-type political regime, such as Kádár's Hungary or another East European state, and the characteristics of each as points of departure for pre-transition and post-transition comparisons between the two.

It is axiomatic that A-type LA and SE regimes were qualitatively different from both "unreformed" C and reformed or semi-reformed post-totalitarian C regimes. In fact, they were so different that their comparability fails the test of cursory scrutiny in at least five respects. The more important differences were as follows:

Degree of politicization and institutional penetration

A regimes: clientelistic-nepotistic informal penetration by authoritarian party's political incumbents of government institutions and parts of the business sector.

C regimes: nomenklatura-driven systematic political penetration by omnicompetent party-state of public administration, economy, society, science, education, culture and organized religion.

Patterns of legitimation

A regimes: ideological legitimacy derived from national history, religion, "national destiny" and charismatic or pseudo-charismatic leader's cult of personality.

C regimes: legitimacy derived from transnational ideological criteria of Marxism-Leninism (plus local equivalent, if any); from leader's cult of personality, if any; from national traditions of "class wars" and those of antifascist resistance, if any.

Economic system and ownership of means of production and of other assets

A regimes: private ownership of land; productive assets in industry, commerce, and banking in the framework of state-influenced but largely autonomous market economy.

C regimes: state ownership of all means of production; state control of cooperative property; constraints on the accumulation of personal property; plan-driven command economy; and semilegal or illegal but tolerated second economy.

Regime-society relationship

A regimes: coexistence and partial inter-penetration of several autonomous corporatist élite groups and unorganized but politically aware public with the state bureaucracy and the political regime.

C regimes: mobilized, then demobilized and partly atomized society as aggregated by transmission belt-type (corporatist and possibly protopluralist) designated interest groups in coexistence with second society-type informal social interactions.

International context

A regimes: independent actors in international affairs; formal links with the regional hegemon, if any, through diplomacy and trade; territorial sovereignty preserved by national army -- no foreign troops on national soil.

C regimes: full integration in vertical military and trading links with the regional hegemon; through ruling party- to ruling party links political-ideological penetration of the latter in domestic affairs; long-term presence of foreign military with implicit mission as political incumbents' defender of last resort.[6]

As shown above, the old regimes were very different. In fact, different enough to raise questions about the comparability of the transition of each from A to PA and C to PC, respectively. At issue is the magnitude of change and whether it has been quantitative or qualitative that each type of system underwent at the point that O'Donnell and Schmitter call "first transition" and Huntington refers to as the instauration of a "first-round" post-Communist regime.[7] One is not concerned here with the dazzling intricacies of elaborate transition flowcharts that Philippe Schmitter and Terry Karl proposed in an ambitious essay.[8] Nor is one impressed by Western politicians’ mind-numbing simplicity in summarily labeling both Tajikistan and the Czech Republic as "new democracies." Rather, what one wants to know is the height of the political, economic and social threshold that the peoples of the PA and PC regimes must cross actually to benefit from the political and economic promise of democracy in their native lands.

If the object of the exercise is to find a suitable analytical niche for the post-Communist states in the post-Cold War constellation of liberal democratic, post-authoritarian, and unreconstructed authoritarian regimes of the global community, the effort calls for fresh thinking and yet another look at the evidence. At issue are mindsets and old-fashioned academic credentials for the study of the subject at hand. The late British economist Peter Wiles spoke of "capitalist triumphalism" in his review of western economic reform options proffered to the bewildered finance ministers of the post-Communist world. My hunch is that the word hubris might be a better way to characterize the (unstated) premises of Western transitology.

It is a matter of record that virtually all leading transitologists discovered Eastern Europe – hitherto the domain of the hardy community of multilingual Western historian and political scientist "area experts" – shortly after CNN’s sixty-second-crisis-analyst reporters landed there. In any case, as authors of learned books on LA, SE, African and Southeast Asian politics and society, they were veteran empirical comparativists in search of new horizons to test old paradigms. With few exceptions they were committed adherents of neoliberal perspectives with respect to the Free World’s moral responsibilities for the political emancipation of the post-Communist publics. Their shared objective was to identify and to position the, to them inherently anarchic, therefore incomprehensible, post-Communist socio-economic phenomena into an apriori matrix of field-tested pathologies of political behavior in the wake of regime changes of various kinds.

To sum up, the "can do" spirit of fearless (some call it brazen) academic entrepreneurship may best illustrated by citing the methodological rationale for proposing SA-EE comparisons by a team of, one leading, and one less well-known, transitologists. As Lijphart and Waisman see it:

A comparison of ...[transition]... processes in Latin America and in Eastern Europe shows important commonalities beyond the structural, institutional, and cultural differences between the regions and among nations. Common aspects exist in the nature of preexisting economic and political regimes, in the cultural and economic environments in which these polities operate, and in the process by which the transition itself is taking place... At a high level abstraction, there are still commonalities.[9]

Indeed, at a high enough level of comparison all polities, economies, and societies begin to look alike. When it comes to navigating in poorly charted waters of faraway places, the unwary helmsman is at risk of being caught between a rock and a hard place, or, in the context of the above quote, between profundity and banality – minus a life vest and a reliable compass.

Transitions: where to?

The magnitude of obstacles to the instauration of democracy in PA- and PC-type (such as Hungary and its neighbors’) transitions can be narrowed down to four components. These concern political institutions, political processes, degree of social transformation and economic structure with special reference to the public's access to private property.

Political institutions

PA: key institutions are in place; partial change of personnel in legislature, government, and public administration; changes implemented by incremental law- and rule-making; autonomy of the military is preserved.

PC: creation of new institutional architecture in all branches of the government, particularly the establishment of Western-inspired constitutional courts; full replacement of top incumbents and some political appointees in public administration; government-funded political parties, policy lobbies and regime-controlled electronic media.

Political processes

PA: free elections; multiparty system with strong influence or policy veto power of corporatist groups and the autonomous business community.

PC: free elections; multiparty system of "historic," "reform socialist," and "new" political parties; jurisdictional disputes over political ground rules among key incumbents; growing distance between élite and mass politics.

Social transformation

PA: incremental changes in hierarchically structured traditional society.

PC: "reinventing civil society" from amalgam of former nomenklatura notables, politicized intellectuals, and economically mainly downwardly mobile nonélites.

Economic structure and property relations

PA: transition from market to market; free enterprise and economic predominance of the private sector;

PC: transition from central planning and state ownership to government-controlled market; privatization via mass distribution of soon-to-depreciate shares in state-owned firms, compensation vouchers, and regime substitution of housing debt cancellation and continued welfare entitlements for private property and (selective) individual economic empowerment of citizens. With the help of porous and frequently deliberately ambiguous regulatory mechanisms "network capital" is transformed into a symbiote of political patronage-nepotism-organized-crime as sui generis form of new/old "original" accumulation of capital.

The "great synthesis": pitfalls and question marks

Eastern Europe's new political architecture and the more visible processes of PC-type transitions are well-covered in the literature.[10] However, academic transitologists have little to say about the complex dynamics of state-society interaction at any, either C or PC, stage of change between two qualitatively different kinds of political systems. It is unfortunate because the answers to the puzzling affinities of PC élites for etatist solutions to social problems lie in the still unexamined precedents set by Gierek's, Husák's, Honecker's and Kádár's social policies in the 1970s.

Moreover, with few exceptions, academic transitologists have also overlooked the obvious, namely, that it takes "capitalists," that is, economically empowered individual owners of private property to build a market economy. The process of the old and holdover élites' large-scale conversion of C-type managerial power into PC property rights with the exclusion of non-élites has not been factored into learned transition scenarios. This is paradoxical, for one need not be a Marxist to appreciate that without "primitive," or some other kind of "accumulation of capital," there cannot be private property, a market economy - let alone, as an orthodox liberal would add - democracy, and personal liberty.

Economic empowerment of citizens and the development of material guarantees for the preservation of individual liberties are essential prerequisites for sustainable growth of democratic institutions.[11] This may sound trite in an age of very substantial state intervention in the private sphere in Western democracies, but the issue has special relevance to chances of democratization in PC polities. Nineteenth-century robber barons in the US had profit as their sole motive, and they may have had some corrupt legislators on their payroll. On the other hand, yesterday's red barons in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union today virtually own and operate key sectors of the economy and have a decisive say in politics. Though profits and old-fashioned greed are the main motivations, these cadre-managers' political values do not seem to have much in common with those of liberal democracy. The PC regimes' sluggish progress in mass privatization and the shortage of credit at affordable rates to potential small entrepreneurs tend to postpone the day of the society's political emancipation from the repressive tutelage of the state.

With these observations and preliminary caveats in mind, let us turn to the magnum opus which, although received with somewhat muted cheers in academic journals and neo-liberal forthnightlies, such as the NYRB, presently serves as the arguably most widely used textbook for "transition" courses in American campuses. The book is entitled Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation. Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe.[12] The co-authors, Juan J Linz (Yale) and Alfred Stepan (Columbia, later Central European University, thence to All Souls, Oxford) are distinguished authors of major works focusing the politics of post-authoritarian transformation of Spain and that of the states of Latin America, respectively. Armed with these formidable credentials and an equally impressive number of research grants, Linz and Stepan embarked on an ambitious journey to take the measure and make sense of the terra incognita of the post-Communist world.

The four-part work begins with a comprehensive theoretical overview which seeks to sum up and operationalize basic concepts, such as democracy and democratization; define and explicate the notion of "stateness" and combine it with a discourse on political belief systems, such as nationalism; offer an annotated taxonomy of modern nondemocratic regimes; propose "implications of prior regime type for transition paths and consolidation tasks"; and conclude with an extended discussion of "actors and contexts."

Depending on one’s preference for conceptual overload or methodological parsimony; for a 'scorched earth' approach to data gathering and Teutonic, yet eclectic, marshalling of illustrative examples, or a selective introduction of key evidence; for footnotes of Byzantine complexity, or lucid asides to illuminate a subtle point; for sentences such as "[T]he limited party-bureaucratic-technocratic pluralism under post-totalitarianism does not give the regime the flexibility for change within the regime that co-optation of nonregime élites can give to many authoritarian regimes" (p 47), instead of saying that systemic intertia and the hardening of the arteries made Brezhnev’s job to innovate more difficult than say, Franco’s or Salazar’s under comparable circumstances; and for elephantine inventories, such as the one that can be found in "The Implications of Nondemocratic Regime Type for the Minimal Tasks of Completing Transition to and Consolidation of a Democratic Regime from the Regime Type" (Table 4.3, p 62), or for candidly admitting that transition scenarios are subject to an immense variety of contextual variations, one can enjoy or be dismayed by the authors’ ambitious and, in my view, flawed theoretical enterprise. (Compared to these caveats, it might seem pedantic to mention that analysis derived from primary Spanish and Portuguese language sources does not, to put it gently, mesh well with speculation based on second- and third-hand English language evidence extracted from an apparently random selection of East European and Soviet sources.)

The next two parts deal with Southern Europe’s (Spain, Portugal, and Greece) "completed consolidations" and with South America’s (Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile) "constrained transitions." Here the authors are truly at home and present the readers with two series of brilliant country studies with each capped with superbly crafted "concluding reflections." Linz and Stepan are in top form and have produced in the space of 150 pages arguably the best theoretical and empirical overview in the literature of Southern Europe’s and South America’s political, social, and economic transformation from the early 1970s to the early 1990s. These richly deserved plaudits notwithstanding, the reader is still at a loss as to the comparability of the two kinds, that is, from A to PA and C to PC, transitions.

The fourth part addresses the matter of post-Communist transitions. The argument is prefaced with a "from Lenin to day before yesterday" kind of historical overview. Following this, various regions and individual states come under scrutiny. Poland is treated in a separate chapter. To be sure, the country deserves special attention, but not for the reasons stated by Linz and Stepan. Based on an odd reading of Poland’s history of Church-state relations and that of its semi-private agricultural sector, the authors maintain that these yielded a sui generis model of existing socialism in Eastern Europe. In my view, none of these have much to do with Gdansk, Solidarność, and the martial law regime which were indeed unique to Poland, as was, again for different reasons, the intelligentsia ideology of "ethical civil society" – a subject to which the authors devote a great deal of space, yet again out of context of the totality of Polish events in the 1970s and the 1980s.

The next chapter offers a side-by-side discussion of Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Bulgaria. No explanation is given for clustering these states in this fashion. In fact, with respect to political cultures, levels of economic development, demographic-ethnic balance, and styles of political leadership, the three countries were about as different as they could be within the broader matrix of Communist Europe east of the Elbe. In any case, following brief historic overviews, the authors provide country-by-country assessments of national transition and transformation scenarios. On the heel of the Central European(?) "three" comes the "sultanistic" Romania which, all by itself, receives chapter-length treatment. This is followed by a 35-page(!) discussion of the USSR-to-Russian-Federation sequence of events. The last country chapter scrutinizes two Baltic states’ political transformation (Estonia and Latvia). One assumes that space limitations prevented the inclusion of the arguably more complex story of Lithuania. The last chapter offers "concluding comparative reflections" on the foregoing country studies.

In lieu of a detailed critique of country studies – save that of Hungary to be provided below – I am bound to make four general observations.

First, it is axiomatic that the differences between the two – A to PA and C to PC – kinds of transitions are of such magnitude that they defy laborious attempts at proposing comprehensive typologies and credible, let alone verifiable, explanations. Synthetic labels which make no provisions for the extremely diverse regional and local cultural contexts in which political action, particularly "transition" of some kind, takes place, simply will not do.

Second, in view of the original analysts’ ideological biases and selection of facts, information derived from secondary sources require extreme caution from the user of such facts and interpretation. If one relies solely, or mainly on Western authors and their textbooks of East European or Soviet history, it ought to be kept in mind that these fonts of dated wisdom are likely to be imbued with Cold War-inspired adversarial mindsets that, as a rule, fail to take into account data and interpretation (mainly in Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Russian) by "local" post-Communist scholars.

Third, that socio-economic, particularly survey data, to have meaningful, let alone persuasive, explanatory powers, must be used in conjunction with other non-quantifiable evidence (such as élite idelogies and historically conditioned mass beliefs) in a time-, space- and culture-specific context.

Fourth, to arrive at valid explanations of C to PC transition phenomena, analysts not familiar with the local languages ought to supplement their data with interviews with suitably balanced panels of knowledgable local informants. Post-Communist events may, and have been, perceived from a variety of local partisan ideological prisms, such as socialist, liberal, nationalist, conservative, religious and, once in a while, from a sine ira et studio objective scholarly perspective. Be that as it may, from the visiting Western analyst’s viewpoint the path of least resistance lies in interviewing and consulting with (preferably English-speaking) local liberal intellectuals. Such informants, though helpful in many ways, help reinforce the analyst’s apriori biases, yet unavoidably give a distorted perspective on the views and actions of political actors of different ideological persuasion.

Hungary’s transition: where from and where to? (and why?)

Finally, a few comments on the work’s sub-chapter dealing with Hungary. The 20 pages devoted for this purpose seek to describe and analyze the key events of the previous half century. Naturally, matters such as the 1956 revolution, János Kádár's ideological-political machinations, the New Economic Mechanism of 1968, the country’s growing external indebtedness, and the main political, economic and social developments of the 1980s, are covered in the narrative. Much of this seems to serve as a kind of raw material for the authors to fit the Hungarian developments into a Latin American reforma pactada – ruptura pactada transition scheme. No problems here, but for the omission of certain matters without which the story promptly degenerates into pretentious nonsense. For example, politically crucial sociological macro-processes such as the thorough postwar transformation of the Hungarian society, the birth of a new socialist middle class, and the emergence of an array of neo-corporatist groups in the bowels of the ancien regime, are totally ignored in the narrative.

The gradual collapse and devolution of the once monolithic party state into its organizational components, the rise of technocratic and reform-oriented élites in the party apparat, and the withering away of the regime’s consumerist legitimacy (there is a great deal of survey data on these matters from the 1970s and the 1980s, yet never consulted by the authors) are not discussed. Equally to the point, the easy-to-document policy positions of Kádár, and those of his aspiring successors – each with lists of transition options – escaped the extracontextual paradigm-happy analysts. It is a pity, because each of Kádár’s successors, such as Károly Grósz, Imre Pozsgay, and Miklós Németh and their respective reform socialist "transition brain trusts," far more than the democratic and Populist opposition, were responsible for Hungary’s transition outcomes in 1980-1990 – and since.[13]

It is also unclear that, apart from the regime’s entropy and ideological bankruptcy who or what were responsible for the way the National Roundtable (NRT) negotiations between the regime and opposition turned out. Answers to the question as to what were the political beliefs, economic interests, and developmental preferences of the key élite groups that crafted post-Communist Hungary’s institutional architecture in the summer of 1989 fell beyond the authors’ purview. In fact, they never raised this question in the first place. It is a matter of record that all regime and opposition NRT negotiators were intellectuals and semi-professional and amateur politicians. Intellectuals, as key decisionmakers, were conspicuously absent from Latin American pact-making – ruptured and otherwise.

In any case, in the authors’ reading of this historic event, the democratic oppositition receives star billing, the Populists are deemed as also-rans, while the reform socialists don’t even rate honorable mention. Yet, without the latter, instead of peaceful transition, there could have been a bloody civil war in Hungary – a mixture of GDR protest marches of October 1989 and the Romanian public’s violent confrontation with the old regime’s secret police in December of that year.

Between November 1988 and May 1990, the government was in the hands of Miklós Németh and his "cabinet of experts." In any case, credit for the adroit management of peaceful transition belongs to Németh’s team – much more than to the otherwise restrained and "self-limiting" opposition. Such crucial transition non-events, as the nipping in the bud of of a Károly Grósz-inspired martial law regime, and events as the disarming of the Workers’ Guard, the faithful implementation of the legislative agenda stemming from the NRT agreements, (particularly the enactment of a thoroughly revised Constitution), the correct management of the March-April 1990 free election, and the similarly correct handing over the reins to the Antall government, must be credited to Miklós Németh. Neither the name, nor the the courageous government decision which yielded the positive outcome of the East German refugee crisis of September 1989, nor, for that matter, the name of the then Foreign Minister Gyula Horn, who delivered the decision to the Kohl government, rates mention in the book’s index.

In all fairness, a detailed discussion of the above would have been extremely difficult in 20 pages. While conceding this point, one is still bound to raise questions about the authors’ use of sources and choice of local informants. Although they interviewed and benefited from the views of János Kis, the former leader of the democratic opposition and founding president of the Alliance of Free Democrats, other, be these socialist, Democratic Forum, Fidesz or Smallholder, sources were not consulted.

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Although the authors cite English language works by the excellent Hungarian comparativists András Bozóki and András Körösényi, equally accessible English-language works by the political scientist Mihály Bihari, Csaba Gombár, and Attila Ágh escaped their attention. Similarly, although the sociologist Elemer Hankiss and the distinguished economist János Kornai are cited in passing, apparently the authors never heard of scores of English language works by top sociologists, such as Tamás Kolosi and the late Rudolf Andorka.

In sum, the time has come to rethink, reconceptualize and register, with the help of appropriate analytical tools, a new kind of scholarly understanding of the daunting complexities of C to PC transitions – at least in Hungary and in the states of East Central Europe. The compelling case made by Stephen Cohen for the intellectual bankruptcy of Western transitology with reference to Russia, seems equally valid for Eastern Europe and Hungary.[14] In each of the countries there are methodologically well-equipped social scientists with the capability for, and the stake in, recapturing the analytical high ground and, with it the opportunity to reassess and reclaim their recent national histories from itinerant Western academic trophy hunters. With the coming of the 21st century, the days of intellectual neocolonialism are, or ought to be, numbered.

Rudolf L Tőkés

This article originally appeared in the summer 1999 issue of Budapest Review of Books. Central Europe Review would like to thank the Budapest Review of Books for permission to reprint this article.

Notes [Click on the ^ to return to the text]

1. The following is a revised, expanded, updated and reconceptualized version of a paper "Transitions and Transitology - A Report from the Field" that I read at the Annual Meeting of British Association of Slavic and East European Studies (BASEES), Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University, 25 March 1995. ^

2. Samuel P. Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991). Works of this genre are classified, summarized, albeit not critiqued, in Doh Chull Shin, "On the Third Wave of Democratization. A Synthesis of Evolution of Recent Theory and Research," World Politics vol. 47 no. 1 (October, 1994) pp. 135-170. ^

3. Guillermo O'Donnell, Philippe C. Schmitter and Laurence Whitehead, eds., Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Comparative Perspectives, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986); Guillermo O'Donnell and Philippe C. Schmitter, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions about Uncertain Democracies (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986); Adam Przeworski, Democracy and Market. Political and Economic Reforms in Eastern Europe and Latin America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991); Adam Przeworski, "Political Dynamics of Economic Reforms: East and South" in Gyorgy Szoboszlai, ed., Democracy and Political Transformation (Budapest: Hungarian Political Science Association, 1991); Arend Lijphart and Carlos H. Waisman, Institutional Design in New Democracies. Eastern, Europe and Latin America (Boulder, CO.: Westview Press, 1996); Larry Diamond et al, eds., Consolidating Third-Wave Democracies. Themes and Perspectives, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997); Béla Gerskovits, The Political Economy of Protest and Patience. East European and Latin American Transformations Compared (Budapest: CEU Press, 1998) [See also the review in CER6]; and several jointly authored articles by Philippe C. Schmitter and Terry Lynn Karl, especially "The Types of Democracy Emerging in Southern and Eastern Europe and South and Central America," in Peter M. E. Volten, ed., Bound to Change: Consolidating Democracy in East Central Europe (New York: CEWSS, 1992), pp. 42-68. On Schmitter's defense of his approach to south-east comparisons and a rebuttal of the same, see Philippe C. Schmitter, "The Conceptual Travels of Transitologists and Consolidationists: How Far to the East Should They Attempt to Go?" Slavic Review vol. 53 no. 1, (Spring, 1994) pp. 173-185 and Valerie Bunce, "Should Transitologists Be Grounded?" Slavic Review vol. 54. no. 1 (Spring, 1995) pp. 111-127. ^

4. Of the long list of works, I found exceptionally useful Leslie Holmes, The End of Communist Power (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); Gilbert Rozman et al., eds., Dismantling Communism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992); Ken Jowitt, New World Disorder: The Leninist Extinction (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992); James R. Millar and Sharon L. Wolchik, eds., The Social Legacy of Communism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994); George Schöpflin, Politics in Eastern Europe (Oxford: Blackwells, 1993); Adam Przeworski et al, Sustainable Democracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); Klaus von Beyme, Transition to Democracy in Eastern Europe, (London: Macmillan, 1996); Philip G. Roeder, Red Sunset: The Failure of Soviet Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press,1993); Mary McAuley, Russia’s Politics, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); Karen Dawisha’s and Bruce Parrott’s edited four-volume national case studies on post-Communist transformations published by Cambridge University Press in 1996-1997; and articles by Grzegorz Ekiert, "Democratization Processes in Eastern Europe: A Theoretical Reconsideration" British Journal of Political Science 21 (July 1991) pp. 285-313 and Andrew C. János, "Social Science, Communism and the Dynamics of Political Change," World Politics vol. 44, no.1(October, 1991) pp. 82-112. ^

5. Minxin Pei, From Reform to Revolution: The Demise of Communism in China and the Soviet Union (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994); M. Steven Fish, Democracy from Scratch. Opposition and Regime in the New Russian Revolution (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), and Bill Lomax, "Eastern Europe: Restoration and Crisis: The Metamorphosis of Power in Eastern Europe," Critique 25 (1993) pp. 47-84. ^

6. Many of these points have been made in Rudolf L. Tőkés, "Hungary's New Political Elites: Adaptation and Change, 1989-1990" Problems of Communism vol. 39. no. 6 (November-December, 1990) p. 46 and in works by Pei, Fish, and Lomax cited in footnote 5 above. ^

7. Huntington, The Third Wave, p. 266 and O'Donnell and Schmitter, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule, p. 12. ^

8. Schmitter and Karl, "The Types of Democracy." ^

9. Lijphart and Waisman, op cit p.XX ^

10. See Stephen Whitefield, ed., The New Institutional Architecture of Eastern Europe (London: Macmillan, 1993); Stuart S. Nagel and Vladimir Rukavishnikov, eds., Eastern European Development and Public Policy (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994); Jon Elster, Claus Offe and Ulrich K. Preuss, Institutional Design in Post-Communist Societies. Rebuilding the Ship at Sea. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998); Attila Ágh, ed., The Emergence of East Central European Parliaments: The First Steps (Budapest: Hungarian Centre for Democracy Studies, 1994); and the extremely valuable journal East European Constitutional Review, published by the Center for the Study of Constitutions in East Europe at the University of Chicago Law School. ^

11. cf. John Gray, "From Post-Communism to Civil Society: The Remergence of History and the Decline of the Western Model" Social Philosophy and Policy, vol. 10, No. 2, (1993). See also David Stark, "Recombinant Property in East European Capitalism," Public Lectures, No. 8 (Budapest: Institute for Advanced Study, Collegium Budapest, 1994). ^

12. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996. ^

13. cf. Rudolf L. Tőkés, Hungary’s Negotiated Revolution: Economic Reforms, Social Change and Political Succesion, 1957-1990, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). ^

14. Stephen F. Cohen, "Russian Studies Without Russia?" Post-Communist Affairs, vol 15. No. 1 (January-March, 1999). ^


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