Císař, O. (2000). Developmentalists and Nationalists: On the Transformations in Eastern Europe. Středoevropské politické studie, 2(4). Získáno z https://journals.muni.cz/cepsr/article/view/3836/5438
"The unhistorical is like atmosphere within which alone life can germinate and with the destruction of which it must vanish

Developmentalists and Nationalists: On the Transformations in Eastern Europe

 

Ondřej Císař

 

“We cannot conceive of the transition as either rooted in the past or tied to an imagined future. Transition is a process suspended between the two.”

(Burawoy and Verdery 1999: 14)

 

“The unhistorical is like atmosphere within which alone life can germinate and with the destruction of which it must vanish. It is true that only by imposing limits on this unhistorical element by thinking, reflecting, comparing, distinguishing, drawing conclusions, only trough the appearance within that encompassing cloud of a vivid flash of light - thus only trough the power of employing the past for the purposes of life and of again introducing into history that which has been done and is gone - did man become man: but with an excess of history man again ceases to exist, and without that envelope of the unhistorical he would never have begun or dared to begin.”

(Nietszche 1983: 63 - 64)

 

Introduction

Socialism was born out of the belief in the bright future of mankind. Thus, the utopian vision of classless society occupied the minds of the early communist avant-garde. Yet, such hopes did not survive the initial revolutionary enthusiasm. As the social organization of the ‘real socialism’ turned out to be a rigid bureaucratic system, the visions of the ‘bright future’ were replaced by the ‘picture of the golden age’, namely the image of the revolution itself. Accordingly, rituals commemorating the ‘founding fathers of socialism’ substituted the ritualized commitments to building the ‘ideal society of equals’. The ideological content of socialism vanished. Past memories occupied the present.

With the breakdown of communism the present could for a moment release itself from the iron grip of the past. The “envelope of the unhistorical” seemed to be open for the deeds of new reformers. Yet, the present could not escape too far. It was almost immediately caught again either by the past or by the future. In the first case, post-communist nationalisms (Brubaker 1996) monopolized the political field; in the second case, the “scientists of the not yet” (Stark and Bruszt 1998: 1-11) disseminated their neoliberal visions of free-market economy. As a result, the present was defined either in terms of national myths going far back to history or by visions to be realized by imitation of the Western model of capitalism.

The focus of this paper is the different paths taken by different countries in the region after the collapse of socialism. The paper distinguishes between the ‘nationalizing alternative’[1] as one basic direction, and the ‘catching up option’ as another one. The paper further argues that this dichotomy itself forms around two clusters of several potential stances which could have been taken in the process of transformations. The goal of the paper is to propose a general framework, with the help of which the interactions ‘behind’ the political decisions taken by political elites in the post-socialist countries could be explained. The paper utilizes some of the tools of institutionalism and Bourdieu’s sociology to bridge the gap between the macro-structural processes and the micro-level of social action.

The construction of a theoretical framework incorporating the diverse nature of the processes under way in Eastern Europe requires a theoretical approach sensitive not only to the different levels of analysis, but also to the different types of social processes. These processes are often referred to as simultaneous marketization, democratization, and nation building. Depending on the character of the particular processes, the publications in the areas of political economy, theory of democracy, and nationalism studies respectively, describe particular ‘metamorphoses’ of economies, polities, and nations. Although they all try to reflect upon each other, each of them puts different emphasis. The aim of this paper is to outline a framework suitable for theorizing all of them.

 

The Diversity of Transformations

The process of transformations is not one-dimensional. There is a relatively wide consensus concerning the triple character of transformations in Eastern Europe. In the early 1990s Claus Offe characterized the transformations as a process including the territorial issue, the issue of democracy, and the issue of the economic and property order (Offe 1996: 35). Offe’s article is focused on the paradoxes emerging out of the discrepancies between the different issues. This specific problem is not the focus of this paper, although the paper draws on Offe’s assumptions regarding the multiple character of transformations.

It is not possible to comprehend the process of transitions with the help of a one-sided discourse. Focused on the economy and preaching the orthodoxy of ‘shock therapy’, the neoliberals have seen the transformation as a transition from state to market. Accordingly, their program contained three ‘-izations’, namely liberalization, stabilization and privatization (Gowan 1995: 13). Due to the one-sidedness in stressing economic issues, the neoliberals could not recognize the critical importance of both the political and the social institutions for the “construction” of a functioning market (see, for example, Bruszt 2000). This theoretical perspective accordingly achieved limited results. The social reality evidently demanded that the theory be extended.

A change of perspective was introduced by the institutionalists and evolutionists. The institutionalists stressed the fact that the market is always ‘embedded’ in a substratum of social institutions and consequently argued that institution building is a crucial precondition for the building of market economy in Eastern Europe. This followed from their assertion that institution building in Eastern Europe did not take place in an ‘institutional vacuum’. Whereas neoliberals tended to believe that there was an institutional vacuum (the tabula rasa model), institutionalists (path dependency, evolutionary approaches) stressed the dependence of the post-socialist development on the institutional legacies of the previous economic and political order. Although they admitted that there was a ‘systemic vacuum’ (i. e. there was no dominant systemic logic) after the collapse of socialism, they strongly opposed the idea of an ‘institutional vacuum’ (the paragraph based on Nielsen, Jessop and Hausner 1995).

This paper studies the process of transformation from an institutionalist point of view. For the purpose of explaining the decisions taken by the post-socialist political actors it employs the theoretical framework of the political field worked out by Pierre Bourdieu. The political field is an inherently institutionalized structure with a dynamics of its own. The paper distinguishes between two basic configurations of political fields in Eastern Europe. Further, it shows that the level of their institutionalization was different. In order to explain the difference, a distinction between political discourse and institutional structure is introduced. Last but not least, the notion of habitus is employed to depict the dynamism of the actions of the social actors and their impact on social structures. In this way the paper makes a full circle. It starts at the level of systemic change (marketization, democratization, nation building), then it goes down to the micro level, and it ultimately ends up back at the macro-level. Yet, upon return, the macro-level is shaped in a different way.

 

Against both Structural Determinism and ‘Rational’ Individualism

In order to explain the transformations that have taken place in Eastern Europe, the paper employs an ‘institutional’ analysis. For the purpose of this essay the word ‘institutional’ denotes the dynamics of the systemic change that is firmly ‘embedded’ in an environment of social institutions. The structure of social institutions consists of particular institutions created in the past. As such, it restricts the ‘portfolio’ of possible decisions that political actors can make, while it also empowers them to make certain decisions (see, for example, Stark and Bruszt 1998).

The institutional perspective opposes any form of determinism that takes actions of social actors as pre-determined by ‘objectively defined’ structures. The deterministic explanation downgrades both the importance of what the paper refers to as the ‘interpretation of situation’ and the interactions among particular social actors. There is no such thing as unmediated mirroring of objective structures. Rather, modes of understanding and interpretation always mediate structural determinants. Thus, a particular structural determinant (e. g. the size of the country) can be interpreted in as many forms as there are social actors.

The pattern of rational individualism does not fit the institutional model either. Contrary to the structural determinism, which emphasizes the constraints put on the actors by objective structures, the rationalistic approach rests on the assumption that the rational actor builds up structures by his/her own decisions. In this sense, it downgrades the broader social environment. As Friedland and Alford (1991: 232) put it: “[t]he most radical retreat from society has been toward instrumental, rational individual, whose choices in myriad exchanges are seen as the primary cause of societal arrangements.” Although there exists also “rational choice institutionalism” (Hall and Taylor 1996: 942), it preserves the basic features of the rational choice approach (Ibid.). This approach conceives of the actor as a utility maximizer without taking into account the institutional and socio-historical character of what ‘utility’ is in a particular institutional setting. To understand the behavior of social actors in a specific context, it is not sufficient to rely exclusively on the assumption of utility-maximization; on the contrary, attention has to be paid to the peculiar shape of the institutional structure.

Actors are always embedded in an institutional environment. As actors are capable of interpretative activity, they understand and interpret their situation within a particular setting. Moreover, they use language not only for describing what is already ‘at hand’. They shape their environment by active discursive activity. Discourse is not used for an innocent description of preexisting social phenomena; on the contrary, discourse produces and shapes society. “Synonymy, metonymy, metaphor are not forms of thought that add a second sense to a primary, constitutive literality of social relations; instead, they are part of the primary terrain itself in which the social is constituted.” (Laclau and Mouffe 1985: 110) Furthermore, discourse materializes itself in the acts of particular social actors. These acts, then, establish the bases of social institutions. In fact, an institution is nothing more than a reified practice that happened to be taken for granted. The result is a mutual interconnectedness between institutions and actors. The actors’ ways of acting are structured by institutions, yet at the same time actors shape institutions. This relation is mediated via interpretations. However, interpretations are not enough. As it is important not only how people think, but also how they act according to what they think, the notion of ‘practice’ has to be introduced. The notion of practice, then, connects the discursive level of interpretation with the ‘real’ level of institutionalization. Only ideas that are put into practice can be institutionalized.

The paper focuses on the relation between discourses and actual practices. The effectiveness of ideas depends on their institutionalization. Goldstein and Keohane (1993: 12-24) hint at this issue by distinguishing between ideas as road maps, ideas as focal points and glue, and institutionalized ideas. Ideas matter as discourses employed in a conflict between social actors. In this sense, the dominant discourse appears out of their mutual interactions. Yet, for ideas to have a lasting influence they must be ‘translated’ into institutions.

 

Institutionalism and the Theory of Fields

Social actors do not act independently of other actors. They are involved in complex interactions that define the social field. Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of fields is an important theoretical source of this paper. As the aim of the essay is to explain the alchemy ‘behind’ the political decisions that shaped the transformation processes in Eastern Europe, the theory of action offered by Bourdieu serves as a robust theoretical framework fully compatible with the institutional approach (see DiMaggio and Powell 1991: 25-26).

There are basically three motives behind the theoretical effort of Pierre Bourdieu. First, Bourdieu wanted to introduce historicity (i.e. the focus on social struggles) into the study of social phenomena. Second, the emphasis on the relative autonomy of the fields serves the purpose of presenting a non-deterministic account of different social spheres. No field can pre-determine the interactions in the other fields. On the contrary, the different fields as well as the different actors in the particular field influence permanently each other via mutual interactions. Third, the theory of fields underlines the relational character of reality. Everything (institutions, agents’ positions) has its meaning “relationally, by virtue of the interplay of oppositions and distinctions” (Bourdieu 1991a: 185). The field consists of various positions that acquire their meanings only in relation to each other.

The hierarchy of positions within a field depends on the distribution of different types of capital (Bourdieu 1991b: 231). Fields are distinct spheres of practice, “each involving specific forms of combinations of capital and value as well as specific institutions and institutional mechanisms” (Thompson 1991: 25). As Bourdieu (1993: 163-164) himself put it, the field is

 

“an independent social universe with its own laws of functioning, its specific relations of force, its dominants and its dominated, and so forth. Put another way, to speak of ‘field’ is to recall that [products of field] are produced in a particular social universe endowed with particular institutions and obeying specific laws. (...) It is a veritable social universe where, in accordance with its particular laws, there accumulates a particular form of capital and where relations of force of a particular type are exerted.”

 

Although the notion of fields can be applied to the countless spheres of social activity, this paper is especially concerned with political activity, and therefore the notion of the political field is of particular importance for its explanatory framework. The political field is the space in which agents “seek to form and transform their visions of the world and thereby the world itself” (Thompson 1991: 26). By producing slogans, programs and the like, politicians and political journalists (i.e. the actors in the political field) seek both to construe and impose a particular vision of the world and to mobilize the support of those who serve as the basis of their political power (i.e. to accumulate political capital).

When applied to the transformations in Eastern Europe, the theory of fields underlines that the particular path of transformation was neither a matter of ‘objectively’ defined interests (structural determinism) nor a matter of rational choice (methodological individualism). It was rather an outcome of complex interactions among actors whose identities were created and shaped during these interactions. The paper claims that two types of political fields could be discerned in the post-socialist societies. Two types of political discourses were able to mobilize strong political support. In order to accumulate political capital the political elite of a particular country used the language (discourse) which had the strongest appeal. At the same time, this discourse shaped the beliefs and the frameworks of perception of the citizens in the particular country. The two dominant discourses were the ‘nationalist’ discourse and the ‘catching up’ discourse, both consisting of several concrete options.

 

Two Configurations: A Basic Framework

It is possible to distinguish between two basic paths from socialism in Eastern Europe. We could have witnessed either an effort aiming at building a functioning democracy and market economy or an effort striving for national goals. Similar differentiation has already been presented, though in different ways from the one put into use in this paper. According to Attila Agh “[t]the analysis of the regional specificities, however, reinforces the significance of the nation-building process which produces the major dividing line not only between but also within the regions.” (Agh 1999: 277) Vachudova and Snyder (1997) distinguish between “two patterns” of post-socialist development: “two divergent paths are discernible among the postrevolutionary states of the “class of 1989””. Their framework is based on “the role of ethnic nationalism in domestic politics.” (Vachudova and Snyder 1997: 2) Vachudova and Snyder try to explain these paths with the help of three independent variables: the relative strength of the anticommunist opposition within a country, the strength of the economy, and the presence of national minorities. Countries with a strong opposition, relatively strong economy, and small minorities end up in the camp of states characterized by the insignificance of ethnic politics, whereas countries with a weak opposition, weak economy, and large coherent minority fall into the group defined by the “spiral of ethnic politics” (Vachudova and Snyder 1997: 32-35). They analyze a group of six countries and claim that the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland form the first group, while Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania constitute the second one. Contrary to this ‘map’, Attila Agh simply draws a distinction between East Central Europe and the Balkans.

The perspective employed by this paper is a rather different one. The paper claims that after the fall of communism two different types of political fields were constituted. The ways of accumulating political capital were different in these two fields, depending on both discourses and institutions. Whereas one type of political field was structured by discourses of ‘economic backwardness’ and ‘economic crisis’, in the second one the only “politically thinkable” (Bourdieu 1991a: 172) utterances were shaped by the language of nationalism.

The approach presented by the paper focuses on the internal dynamics of the political fields instead of trying to draw a line between those who decided to ‘modernize’ and those who decided to ‘nationalize’. There was no deliberate decision of an actor concerning the future path. The structure of political fields emerged from numerous interactions within the field and among different fields. For example, the political field of the EU played a significant role in the constitution of East European politics.

The next section outlines a ‘discursive map’ of the East European transformations. It identifies the neoliberal discourse of the early transformation as the dominant discourse emerging in the ‘catching up’ type of political field. The ‘nationalist’ discourse of the post-communist ethnic federations is taken as an example of the outcome in the second type of political field. Drawing on a microanalysis of transformations, the paper proposes the hypothesis that whereas the ‘nationalist’ discourse was institutionalized enough even before it was openly expressed, the neoliberal discourse has not been institutionalized. However, as the neoliberal discourse presents only one stance in the ‘catching up’ type of political field, its non-institutionalization is not problematic provided that there is an alternative option available. There are indeed several stances in the ‘catching up field’. At the same time, all of them rest on support from the outside. The program of ‘Europeanization’ is their common denominator.

Last but not least, as will be illustrated in the case of Poland, the two types of fields are ideal types. The ‘catching up’ type of the field contains a ‘nationalist’ option as well as the nationalist field contains a ‘catching up’ option. The final hypothesis of the paper is that, although the transitions are uncertain processes open to unpredictable shifts, in case of failure of all options available in the ‘catching up’ type of field the most probable alternative for the political elite would be to switch to nationalist rhetoric. This could be prevented only if the promises of European integration characteristic of all non-nationalist alternatives are institutionalized.

 

Two Dominant Discourses

The end of the 1980s was marked by the global prevalence of the neoliberal discourse. The often-quoted Fukuyama’s article, followed by his book, is the most eminent expression of the dominance of neoliberal ideas. Western scholars, used to thinking in dual categories, regarded the disappearance of socialism as the final proof of the “end of history of ideas”. At the level of ideology the war was over. There was no other ideology powerful enough to challenge the neoliberal hegemony. With the ‘iron curtain’ disappearing there was no obstacle left to prevent the spreading of economic liberalism in the former socialist countries. Moreover, in the post-socialist countries themselves the situation was propitious to the adoption of neoliberalism. Although not very powerful, a part of the intellectual elite preached free market and trade-openness as the only viable alternative to communism long before the last socialist kingdom was uprooted (Szacki 1995: 119-125).

Yet, neoliberalism was not the only option available. If we decompose the first cluster of options we can see a structure of the political field more sophisticated than the one represented by neoliberalism. However, all positions in the countries’ political fields that can be put under the heading ‘catching up option’ shared the conviction that the aim to be achieved was the return to Europe, meaning the developed capitalist world. In the case of Poland five different positions were discernible. Jacek Kochanowicz (personal communication, Budapest, March 2000) distinguished among (1) neoliberal utopia; (2) ‘back to Europe’ position; (3) ‘third way’ stance; (4) nationalist utopia; and (5) the ‘Catholic vision’. As these positions have to be considered ideal types, their real boundaries are not as clear-cut as implied by the scheme. Moreover, all of them share the basic belief in ‘European’ Poland, although such a belief is understood differently, depending on the camp. Neoliberals, Europeanists, and the Third Way share the common perception of Europe being the goal to be achieved. However, for the neoliberals Europe means the Anglo-American model of capitalism, whereas Europeanists stress the common European values. The Third Way sticks to the Rhine or to the German model rather than to the Anglo-American model of capitalism. The religious position draws on the Christian heritage of Europe. Finally, nationalists turn the perspective upside down. For them the true embodiment of European values is Poland rather than Western Europe where these values have only been spoiled.

The language of ‘Europeanization’ informed the structuring of the political field of the ‘catching up’ type. Although it in itself consists of several competing options, there is a common perception of the need to become part of the core countries. The perceived “backwardness” (Gerschenkron 1962: 7-8) is a stimulus of action within this field. At the same time, the ideology of neoliberalism was regarded as the most suitable way to overcome the legacies of communism and to enter the door of the prosperous world.

There are, at least, two possible explanations of the dominance of the neoliberal ideology. First, some sort of liberalism was established within the socialist countries as the sharpest alternative to the communist ideology, even if the proponents of these ideas rarely considered themselves liberals (Szacki 1995). Second, the fall of communism coincided with the domination of the neoliberal discourse on the global level. Many Third World countries experienced this domination long before socialism collapsed. Thomas Biersteker (1995) traces back the changes in the developmental discourse during the last two decades. His article discloses the main transformation: “[s]ince the beginning of the 1980s most of the developing world has moved unevenly but undeniably toward liberal, market-oriented economic reforms.” (Biersteker 1995: 174) Moreover, Biersteker uncovers a link between politics and the ‘academic business’. This should be stressed as an important element of the social change in Eastern Europe as well. “Within the social sciences, liberal economic ideas gained new force, visibility, and legitimacy in the late 1970s and early 1980s through a series of influential publications critical of the prevailing economic policy thinking.” (Biersteker 1995: 183)

Both the external influences and the internal situation in the post-socialist economies helped the adoption of neoliberal orthodoxy in countries where the self-perception of the citizens aimed at prosperity and political openness. Liberalism, understood in economic terms, was the prevalent ideology of the early 1990s. Therefore, after the collapse of communism it was the proponents of this position that were heard most clearly. Liberalism presented the most radical alternative to the communist doctrine and this was in itself a relatively robust source of its legitimacy. “[T]he very prospect of changing the economic system appealed to most of society because it promised the liquidation of real socialism, and only liberals had available a relatively comprehensive programme for such change...” (Szacki 1995: 165)

 

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The second pattern of organization of the political field was presented most notably by the “post-communist ethnic federations” (the former Yugoslavia and the USSR). In these countries the most appealing discourse was not the discourse of prosperity, but the discourse of national homogeneity. The slogans capable of mobilizing political support did not stress the bright future of free market economy, but the deep tradition of a particular nation. Nevertheless, the emergence of nationalism after the fall of communism should not be understood as an unexpected expression of passions suppressed during the socialist times; on the contrary, nationalism was deeply institutionalized during communism. Both the national awareness and “institutional equipment” were produced by the political practices of the communist regimes, and they served as the basis of the post-socialist organization of the political field (Brubaker 1996). Nationalist discourses emerged as expressions of what is “politically thinkable” (Bourdieu 1991: 172) and exerted influence upon society. “This has involved the nationalization of narrative and interpretative frames, of perception and evaluation, of thinking and feeling. It has involved the silencing or marginalization of alternative, non-nationalist political languages.” (Brubaker 1996: 20) In other words, nationalism became the dominant political discourse.

Rogers Brubaker (1996) stresses the constitutive character of institutions established during communism. Due to the nationally based institutional structure, the political elites of the successor states were prepared ‘in advance’. Correspondingly, the whole political field was structured according to national symbolics. In the case of the USSR the national institutionalization was intended as a way to manage the diversity of different cultural groups. Yet, it had unintended consequences. Although the nationalist discourse was not allowed to be openly expressed, the gradual institutionalization of nationally based structures was in place. Brubaker shows how a particular structural situation emerged. Due to the deliberate institutionalization, the social structures were built up in such a way that the position of the post-socialist political elites could have been interpreted only in one way, namely through the lenses of a nationalist language.

 

Everyday Responses

The paper started with the sketchy outline of systemic changes that have shaped the East European societies. It employed the theory of fields in order to reveal the logic ‘behind’ the different paths from socialism. Bourdieu’s theory of fields showed how two different patterns of transformations were established. In order to accumulate political capital, the political elites opted for the discourses that had the strongest appeal in the society. Yet, as the initial moment of transformations withered away, the strategies of social actors changed. The merciless imposition of market mechanisms, which were developed in the course of several centuries in the Western world, suddenly affected the everyday lives of actors habitualized in a completely different system of social and economic cooperation.

Although the initial drive against communism brought both neoliberal and nationalist discourses into power, their future seems to be very different. The nationalist discourse was sufficiently institutionalized even before it was openly expressed. The neoliberal discourse was, however, never institutionalized enough to allow the researcher to speak about a neoliberal society. The everyday responses to the neoliberal strategies of marketization brought about proliferation of new diverse patterns of organization of production, distribution, and welfare system. The habitus of actors resisted marketization and democratization to an extent that made the ideal types of market economy and liberal democracy useless for descriptive purposes. Nationalisms were more successful in this respect. The national discourse filled the gap that appeared after the breakup of communist rule.

Bourdieu’s notion of habitus can help to conceptualize the difference. Habitus is “a set of dispositions which incline agents to act and react in certain ways. The dispositions generate practices, perceptions and attitudes which are ‘regular’ without being consciously co-ordinated or governed by any ‘rule’.” (Thompson 1991: 12) Pierre Bourdieu (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992: 126 - 127) stated that

 

“[t]o speak of habitus is to assert that the individual, and even the personal, the subjective, is social, collective. (...) It is the double and obscure relation between habitus, i. e., the durable and transposable systems of schemata of perception, appreciation, and action that result from the institution of the social in the body (...), and fields, i. e., systems of objective relations which are the product of the institution of the social in things or in mechanisms...”

 

In order to depict the alternative routes of transformations in Eastern Europe the perspective has to focus on the micro-level, that is, on what can also be called “behavioral dispositions” (Dore 1998: 30-31). Trying to look at the habituation of nationalist practices on the level of individual action, Katherine Verdery traces back the importance of habits created by the communist regimes. According to Verdery the identity of a communist citizen was always split between the public self (official self) and the ‘real’ self that was critical towards the state of things affirmed by the public part of the self. Due to this split, “social schizophrenia” captured the people living under socialism. They perceived the world as divided between the world of ‘them’ (the world of the party state) and the real world. According to Verdery, with the end of the party rule ‘they’ (enemies, party state) vanished but this did not result in unity of split identities; on the contrary, the nationally defined enemy substituted the party enemies. “The essence of ethnic identities is a dichotomization into “us” and “them”, through a process analogous to moral dichotomization in socialism: both produce identities based on an attribution of difference that yields opposed status groups.” (Verdery 1993: 194) Verdery claims that “part of what makes nationality so powerful is that it exists not just at the levels of political rhetoric, interest groups and constitutionalism, but as a basic element of people’s self-conception.” (Ibid.)

Contrary to a structural homology between institutionalized politics and everyday habitus in the case of nationalist discourse, the neoliberal ideology has not managed to institutionalize itself (see Burawoy and Verdery 1999). There is certain discrepancy between the macro level of systemic changes and the micro level of social actors. An effort to introduce liberal ideas of free market economy met the strong resistance of the actors affected by this discourse. “In reaction to the iron law of market expansion, we discover the iron law of market resistance.” (Burawoy and Verdery 1999: 7) The initial support generated with the help of strong transitional rhetoric disappeared. Therefore, in countries like Bulgaria or Romania the former communists got back their lost power.

As indicated above, the neoliberal rhetoric was only one expression, though the most powerful one, of the general eagerness to become part of the developed world. With the recognition that the neoliberal blueprints do not work as expected, different approaches are overtaking the initiative (e. g. Stark and Bruszt 1998; Grabher and Stark 1997). Yet, the overall logic behind these approaches has not changed. The goal to be realized is to ‘get to Europe’, that is, to the core of developed countries. Therefore, the rhetoric of ‘Europeanization’ still exerts an appeal, especially in countries like Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic. However, the public resonance of the ‘Europeanization’ rhetoric can be easily exhausted if it is not institutionalized. The neoliberal discourse withered away. Its application brought about such unexpected consequences that now the promise of marketization of, for example, the Russian economy depends more on its re-monetarization than on further liberalization. The same may happen to the ‘Europeanizers’ if they fail to materialize their promises by putting discourses into practice.

In this case the most viable alternative is to substitute ‘national pride’ for failed ‘integration’. What has to be expected is not “Latinoamericanization” (see Berend 1995), but nationalization of the political fields. When the currency of integration becomes inflated the currency of isolation is at hand. The transformation of Eastern Europe should not be seen in teleological terms as gradual movement toward a desired ideal. The transformation is a process with its own dynamics and is not necessarily heading toward increasing convergence with the Western standards. In the specific case of organizational behavior this was referred to metaphorically as ‘bricolage’ (Stark and Bruszt 1998: 103-104). Theories focused on the “ethnography” of transitions, namely on the micro-level responses to the macro-level changes suggest that “local improvisations may press either in novel directions or toward a “return” to socialism” (Burawoy and Verdery 1999: 2). According to Burawoy and Verdery the zigzag logic of transformations may bring about a return to socialism rather than a return to Europe. As elaborated in this paper, there is another possibility, namely the nationalist one.

The failure of ‘Europeanization’ would not only be the proof of the ultimate failure of neoliberalism, but it would also convey the message that all stances of the ‘catching up’ type of political field are not able to realize their promises. This would most probably result in a fundamental change in the political field. Yet, the local reactions of social actors are impossible to predict. Although this paper assumes that the political field would be re-structured in favor of the nationalist rhetoric, many variations on the theme of failure may occur. There are no iron laws of historical development for the time being.

Conclusion: Making Sense of the Present

The ‘blueprint of free market economy’ seemed to be the guarantee of transformational success. Such a belief turned out to be unrealistic but the legacy of the neoliberal optimism is still at work within the theory of ‘transitology’. Thus, the transformation of East European societies is often described as liberalization (e. g. Crawford 1995) and even at the end of the first decade of changes some authors apply to Eastern Europe what can be called the ‘paradigm of deficit’. Pretending that they are describing actual processes, they, in fact, evaluate particular countries in terms of their compliance with the Western models (as an example of this approach, see Agh 1999).

The East European ‘metamorphoses’ shaped by institutions inherited from the past and challenged by the programs of the future constitute a complex reality which in a way escapes the dual scheme of political options presented by the paper. Although the paper argued in favor of two alternatives, it does not wish to discard the fluid nature of the transformations. The present is neither determined by the past nor driven by the future; on the contrary, it is a source of innovative strategies that can result in a model completely different from the ones we now know.

The “envelope of unhistorical” has never been open in Eastern Europe. The transitions have taken place in a particular set of social institutions but neither the past nor the future can help to construct the tools necessary for a description of what is at stake in the region. Of course, the past frames the present, as well as the future informs it via programs of what is to be done. However, what is actually happening depends on the interpretative activities of the present. The present, even if deeply interwoven with the past and the future, asserts its own dynamics.

It is, then, impossible to describe the actual reality with the help of ‘patterns of the past’ or with ‘visions of the future’. Both serve as sources to be reinterpreted and put into reality according to the self-understanding of social actors. Hence, looking at the ideal of market economy it is possible to argue that “in the present world context the shift to a market economy brings with it "regressive” and “progressive” dynamics simultaneously.” (Burawoy and Verdery 1999: 15) The transitions remain uncertain.

It is possible, however, to try to conceptualize the dynamic nature of transitions. In order to create a conceptual framework this paper turned to the sociology of Pierre Bourdieu. His theory informed a framework able to depict the interconnected processes which took place simultaneously on the macro and micro levels, though they often moved in different directions. The paper proposed a hypothesis based on the two different structures of political fields. The actions of political elites and the discourses employed in the course of political struggles were connected to the actions on the level of everyday practices. The final hypothesis of the paper concerned the case of failure of all options available in the ‘catching up’ type of the field. The most probable alternative for the political elite would be to switch to the nationalist discourse.

 

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[1] ‘Nationalizing alternative’ refers to political activities putting the nationalist discourse into use. Nationalizing state is an “unrealized” nation state, i. e. a state in the process of promotion of its national character (Brubaker 1996).



Copyright (c) 2000 Ondřej Císař

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