Fast Forward to Capitalism? Accelerated Youth in Post-Socialism

  • Herwig Reiter
  • Christine Steiner


Transitions from central planning to a market economy constitute a historically recent phenomenon, as Ken Roberts (2003, p. 490) maintains: ‘There are plenty of earlier examples of transitions from authoritarian rule to multiparty democracy, but not from a command to a market economy. Most of the countries made this transition rapidly, big bang style.’ Big bangs, one could argue following Ken Roberts, constitute extreme forms of instantaneous acceleration: they change everything and redefine life chances and relationships in space and time. In the case of post-socialist transformations in Europe, this movement of change was not entirely contingent. After the fall of the Berlin Wall many of the former communist countries in Europe entered into a modernisation race towards ‘western’ standards. In order to escape their ascribed ‘backwardness’ (Gershenkron, 1962) and become compatible with the membership requirements of supra-national entities like the European Union, societies were rapidly liberalised and deregulated. In a convergent process of ‘catch-up modernisation’ (Zapf, 1995) these countries adopted modernised political, economic and legal institutions of the market economy, democracy and welfare state. This fast transformation introduced uncertainties, which were unknown in the life course model of the before ‘authoritarian welfare state’ (Leisering and Leibfried, 1999). Mass unemployment, poverty and new forms of inequality were among the consequences.1


Young People Alternative Service Youth Study Mass Unemployment Youth Transition 
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© Herwig Reiter and Christine Steiner 2016

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  • Herwig Reiter
  • Christine Steiner

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