The fall of the Soviet Union over 20 years ago ushered in new political and economic ideologies and institutions to its former states, places where “many scholars doubted that the seeds of capitalist democracy would ever take root,” said CEU Professor of International Relations and European Studies Bela Greskovits. However, capitalism in different forms did emerge and Greskovits and his colleague, CEU Associate Professor of Political Science Dorothee Bohle, have been researching its progress – which has been precarious at times – in 11 of the 20 former communist countries that transformed after the Soviet collapse. The results of their research will be published in the upcoming book titled Capitalist Diversity on Europe’s Periphery.
Based on individual country's post-Soviet priorities, nations adopted different forms of capitalism, resulting in an interesting regional variety. In particular, the book identifies three kinds of capitalism in the EU’s Eastern/Central European new member states. Fully rejecting the socialist system, the Baltic states made the most extreme transformation into neoliberal capitalism, or a system which emphasizes open markets. Romania and Bulgaria later joined the neoliberal camp as a result of a deep political and economic crisis. The four Visegrad countries (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia) adopted an embedded neoliberal type of economy which combines free trade with provisions for social welfare. They also worked hard to attract and embed foreign direct investment. Slovenian policymakers drew on the Yugoslav reform socialist legacies. Here, labor unions, business associations, and the government have worked in a neocorporatist partnership to meet the challenges of transformation and international integration.
The professors' research builds on Hungarian political economist Karl Polanyi's research that highlights the imperfections of capitalist systems, including conflicts between market efficiency, social cohesion and political legitimacy. “Importantly, this book elaborates on the unique efforts to resolve these conflicts on Europe's less advanced perimeter,” said Bohle.
Going beyond static comparisons of the three political economic regimes, the research offers a dynamic perspective on their emergence, prospects, and the obstacles they encounter. The region’s capitalist types are traced to the assets and liabilities left behind by state socialism, the policy choices of political and technocratic elites, and the influence of the EU and transnational investors.
The volume also provides a first account of the ways in which the current global and European crises reinforce or challenge the diverse institutional ensembles of latecomer capitalism. “Whether the former socialist countries will eventually converge on the affluent, solidaristic, and democratic Western European standards is less clear today than it ever was,” said Bohle. “Indeed, analysts ought to be prepared for the possibility of backsliding in politics and the economy alike.”
The book is published as part of Peter Katzenstein’s Political Economy Series of Cornell University Press.
Selected chapters of the book will be made available to those interested.