Twenty Years of Postcommunism The Other Transition

The paper argues that the history of the postcommunist transition can be rewritten as a renegotiation of a social contract between state and society after Communism. A strong state based on coercion alone is not sustainable, as it is not based on a social contract. Repression is costly, and once the global order of communism broke down, communist regimes, lacking legitimacy, vanished. The communist state’s strength and the extent to which it invaded the private lives of its citizens varied greatly across Eastern Europe; so did the autonomy of the society. This was no simple linear relationship. But the relationship between state and society under communism best explains the divergent paths taken by the former communist countries after 1989.

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