Volume 58 Number 4 Abstracts

The Revolution of 1989: Postcommunism and the Social Sciences

Philip G. Roeder

The decade since 1989 has witnessed simultaneous national, democratic, capitalist revolutions that rocked twenty-eight countries of the postcommunist world. These revolutions also shook the worlds of the scholars who study these countries, inspiring profound reassessments of the relationship between the communist past and present and the relationship between our studies and the theoretical developments within our respective disciplines. This introduction to the special issue surveys some results of this triple transformation in these countries and the double dialogue in scholarship. The five essays in this special issue reflect on these transformations and dialogues.

The Political Economy of Postsocialism

Valerie Bunce

The twenty-seven regimes that have arisen from the wreckage of state socialism and the dissolution of the Soviet, Yugoslav, and Czechoslovak states exhibit considerable and growing political and economic diversity. They vary, in particular, in political stability, political and economic regime-type, and economic performance. What seems to account for this variance--and what explains the three contrasting postsocialist pathways in the region--is the socialist past and its impact on state capacity, the outcomes of founding elections, and the political-economic dynamics that followed. This argument has several implications for the study of regime transition, economic and political. One is that the postsocialist experience deviates from the global norm--for example, in the strategies of transformation and their variable payoffs. Another is that contingent circumstances, so favored in explanations by many political scientists and economists, emerge as less important than the legacies of the socialist past.

Postcommunist Subversion: Social Science and Democratization in East Europe and Eurasia

Steven Fish

What determines cross-national variation in trajectories of democratization in the postcommunist world? This article argues that the main social-science paradigms, most notably structural, cultural, rationalist, and "transitological" approaches, provide inadequate bases for explanation. The article proposes an alternative explanatory framework, called political constructivism. The approach emphasizes the importance of the development of political parties and civil society more generally, the extent to which constitutions disperse power, and the extent of economic reform. The article also investigates the influence of democratization on political, social, and economic life. It reveals that democracy's effects in some realms have been unexpectedly benign, while in others they have been surprisingly disappointing. Finally, the essay explores the implications of the postcommunist experience for democratic theory.

Geography and Transition: Re-Conceptualizing Systemic Change in the Former Soviet Union

Nicholas J. Lynn

This paper argues for a reconceptualizing of orthodox models of systemic change in the former Soviet Union by recognizing the importance of the geography of transition. It reviews the growing literature in political science, comparative economics and sociology over ways of approaching studying processes of democratization and marketization, and it highlights how recent debates in British and American human geography, specifically over the value of writing new regional geographies, can enrich debates over the triple transition in the postsocialist world.

Comrades into Citizens? Russian Political Culture and Public Support for the Transition

Donna Bahry

Since 1989, the nature of political culture has become a central issue in transitions from communism. Transitions may hinge in the short term on elite bargaining over the new rules of the game, but long-term consolidation seems to depend much more on the depth of public support. Yet gauging public acceptance is a challenge: mass surveys reveal divergent responses within countries and even among individual citizens, most especially in Russia. People endorse conflicting values, thus raising a serious question about the structure and consistency of individual orientations. This article reappraises the consistency issue. It argues that conflicting public values--hybrids--are common in established western democracies as well as in postcommunist countries; they reflect selective approval of various elements of both markets and democracy. Few publics, east or west, conform to the liberal model. We therefore need a more realistic baseline for judging when and how political culture matters.

Peoples and States after 1989: The Political Costs of Incomplete National Revolutions

Philip G. Roeder

The experience of the transition from communism reveals an important lesson--one forgotten in the last few decades--for recent discussions of democratization and the foundations of the democratic peace. In these societies in transition the consolidation of nation-states appears to be a necessary condition for successful democratization. Moreover, this experience shows that the usual institutional remedies to accommodate ethnically plural societies within democracies--that is, power-sharing arrangements--actually increase ethnic conflict and hinder democratization. The national revolution that swept the postcommunist world after 1989 led to the redrawing of state borders so that they more closely correspond to national boundaries, but the transformation in many regions of the postcommunist world remains incomplete. The political cost of these incomplete national revolutions has been dictatorship and the failure of democracy.