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Beyond "East" and "West"

On the European and Global Dimensions of the Fall of Communism
  • Peter Wagner
Chapter
Part of the Social Indicators Research Series book series (SINS, volume 9)

Abstract

With the fall of communism across Eastern Europe in 1989 and the official end of the USSR in 1991, the fundamental borderline that divided both Europe and the world after the Second World War, the line that defined "East" and "West," has ceased to exist. Two consequences can be said to have followed from this epochal event, one regional or area-specific, the other general or global.

Keywords

Iron Curtain European Politics Double Transformation Soviet Occupation Dissident Discourse 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    For the above paragraph, see the classic study by Denys Hay (1957): Europe: The Emergence of an Idea (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press); and Pim den Boer (1995): "Europe to 1914: the making of an idea," Kevin Wilson and Jan van der Dussen, eds., The History of the Idea of Europe (London and New York: Routledge), pp. 13-82; as well as, Traian Stoianovich (1994): Balkan Worlds: The First and Last Europe (Armonk, NY and London: M. E. Sharpe).Google Scholar
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    For the formulation of a "primordial Iron Curtain," Lonnie R. Johnson (1996), Central Europe: Enemies, Neighbors, Friends,(New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press), p. 24.Google Scholar
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    The story has been told many times before, its causes and dynamic has occupied some of the most eminent scholars in the social sciences and humanities, and we are still unsure about the exact whys and hows. Good snythesizing discussions can be found in David S. Landes' (1969) introduction to his classic The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present (Cambridge, etc.: Cambridge University Press), and in Daniel Chirot (1985): "The Rise of the West," American Sociological Review, vol. 50, pp. 181 - 195.Google Scholar
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    Making a strong case for East Central Europe in this regard, Piotr S. Wandycz (1992): The Price of Freedom: A History of East Central Europe from the Middle Ages to the Present ( London, etc.: Routledge).Google Scholar
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    Ivan T. Berend and György Ranki (1982): The European Periphery and Industrialization, 1780-1914,trans. by Eva Palmai (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press;) Piotr S. Wandycz, The Price of Freedom,pp. 166-180.Google Scholar
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    Lonnie R. Johnson, Central Europe: Enemies, Neighbors, Friends,p. 252.Google Scholar
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    I am referring here to the most famous essay on the idea of Central Europe as a "kidnaped West" (written, as its author maintains, for a Western audience), Milan Kundera (1984): "The Tragedy of Central Europe," The New York Review of Books,April, pp. 33, 36, 38. For critical discussions: Krishan Kumar (1992): "The 1989 Revolutions and the Idea of Europe," Political Studies,vol. XL, no. 3 (September), pp. 439461; Iver B. Neumann (1993): "Russia as Central Europe's Constituting Other," East European Politics and Societies,vol. 7, no. 2 (Spring), pp. 349-369.Google Scholar
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    Thus the famous definition by Timothy Garton Ash (1989) of "East Central Europe" The Uses of Adversity: Essays on the Fate of Central Europe (New York: Random House), p. 250 n. 10.Google Scholar
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    Ralf Dahrendorf: Betrachtungen über die Revolution in Europa,p. 93.Google Scholar
  36. 37.
    Claus Offe, besides Adam Przeworski, has developed the conception of the "double transformation" and the "dilemma of syncronicity;" Claus Offe (1994): Der Tunnel am Ende des Lichts: Erkundungen der politischen Transformation im Neuen Osten (Frankfurt/M.: Campus).Google Scholar
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    should note at this point that the Western reception of the idea of Central Europe was predictably not so much guided by the idea of a "return to Europe" as it was by the idea of a "return to history".Google Scholar
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    Michael Zürn (1995): "The Challenge of Globalization and Individualization: A View from Europe," Hans-Henrik Holm and Georg Sorensen, eds., Whose World Order Uneven Globalization and the End of the Cold War (Boulder, CO: Westview Press), pp. 137-163, quotes pp. 137, 139, 163.Google Scholar
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    For a recent discussion: Thomas Bremer, Wim van Meurs, Klaus Müller (1998): "Vorwärts in die Vergangenheit? Zur Zukunft der Osteuropaforschung," Osteuropa, vol. 48, no. 4 (April), pp. 406-408. 47Google Scholar
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    Adam Przeworski et al. (1995): Sustainable Democracy ( Cambridge, etc.: Cambridge University Press ), p. 4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Wolfgang Zapf (1994): "Wohlfahrtsentwicklung und Modernisierung (1993)," Wolfgang Zapf, Modernisierung, Wohlfahrtsentwicklung und Transformation: Soziologische Aufsätze 1987 bis 1994 (Berlin: edition Sigma, 1994), pp. 175-186, quote p. 181.Google Scholar
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    On the special issue of migration in this context, see Mathias Bös (1997): Migration als Problem offener Gesellschaften: Globalisierung und sozialer Wandel in Westeuropa und Nordamerika ( Opladen: Leske und Budrich).Google Scholar
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    One of the better treatments spanning scientific and general discussion (despite its title), Benjamin R. Barber (1996): Jihad vs. Mc World: How Globalism and Tribalism are Reshaping the World ( New York: Ballantine Books).Google Scholar
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    Jadwiga Staniszkis (1991): "Dilemmata der Demokratie in Osteuropa," Rainer Deppe, Helmut Dubiel, and Ulrich Rödel (eds.), Demokratischer Umbruch in Osteuropa (Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp), pp. 326-347. In this early, important discussion of the "dilemmas of democracy" in Eastern Europe, Staniszkis distinguishes five such dilemmas which can be summarized as follows: 1) demobilization: the process of transformation was initialized by a process of mobilization, yet for the transformation to continue, for the necessary consolidation to set in, mobilization has to be taken back from above; 2) the ambiguous importance of the state: the state takes on a renewed importance as sole representative of the common interest and initializer of the entire reform process, which also makes new abuses of state power possible; 3) the Russian problem: the process of transformation in Eastern Europe remains within the orbit and within the influence of a new Russian colonial state; 4) the ambiguous solution of the presidency: as an attempt to fill the power vacuum left behind by the communist party, the presidency as institution is rather ill-defined; 5) the restrictive context of reform activity: both internal economic crisis and external economic dependence reduce the options available to the political actors. Obviously, this classification was meant to pertain to the "transition" period immediately following the events of 1989. It is also important to realize that her empirical reference point is the case of Poland, or more generally, the cases of the "velvet revolution" (V. Havel). In our context, the reader should also note the concern about Russia and the emphasis on the responsibility of western politicians for the caution of western investors in her discussion. Both points are powerful Leitmotifs of the Eastern reform discourse; the latter now slightly tampered by the realization that capitalist investment is not something that western politicians can command. Of course, there is also an added problem here which already brings us around to the point of our argument: in the present context, westem politicians have a hard time making the case for investments abroad as something beneficial to their respective constituents; in some cases, such as Germany's, more investments at home (no matter what the source) are sought after. In the German context, the entire debate on investment is further complicated by the domestic West-East divide: it is still the case that investment in the East of Germany (again: no matter what the source!) is not seen as investment in Germany, period, but rather as "aid" (which, in the perverse logic of "public investment," it is).Google Scholar
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    As with so many German terms, is, too, is virtually untranslatable. "Social politics" is rather awkward. I have borrowed the term from the social reporting (social indicators, social structure) literature, although even there the term leads a rather underground existence. See for example Roland Habich and Heinz-Herbert Noll with Wolfgang Zapf (1994): Soziale Indikatoren and Sozialberichterstattung: Internationale Erfahrungen and gegenwärtiger Forschungsstand (Bern: Bundesamt für Statistik der Schweiz).Google Scholar
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    However, as Catherine Durandin has pointed out, in the light of the region's multi-ethnic past, the exclusivism of nationalism can (should) be seen as "a betrayal of tradition"; Catherine Durandin (1994): "Occidentalistes et Nationalistes en Europe Central et Orientale: De la Guerre Froide à la Guerre Chaude," L'autre Europe,nos. 28-29, pp. 105-114.Google Scholar
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  • Peter Wagner

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