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Eastern Europe: Continuity and Change (1987–1995)

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Edited By Irena Grudzinska-Gross and Andrzej W. Tymowski

The book consists of articles from East European Politics and Societies, a journal published in the United States that first appeared in 1987. This selection is composed of papers written by the journal’s founders and early authors, among them Zygmunt Bauman, Tony Judt, Katherine Verdery, Vladimir Tismaneanu, Elemer Hankiss, Vesna Pusic, Maria Todorova. The first section Before the Change consists of texts written in the late 1980s; its authors tried to identify the cracks that would undermine or reform the existing system. In the second part of the book Alternative Futures contributors sketched the directions of the changes as they were just getting underway. The authors hoped that politics, economics, and societies were now free to reinvent themselves. The texts in the third section, Legacies of the Past, written before, during, and after the time of most drastic changes, show how the shadows cast by the histories of individual nations and the region as a whole continued to burden political strategies as well as daily lives.
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Alternative Futures for Eastern Europe: The Case of Hungary: Ivan Szelenyi

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Alternative Futures for Eastern Europe: The Case of Hungary*

Ivan Szelenyi

In this article I try to achieve three tasks. First: I describe the current state of socio-economic transformation in Eastern Europe, with particular attention to Hungary. Second: I assess alternative scenarios for future development in this part of the world. Third: I pay close attention to what I regard as the least risky or costly—though not necessarily the most likely or even most desirable—way of the future in Eastern Europe. This future, I shall argue, may not be so very different from what progressive social theorists during the interwar years in Hungary and elsewhere (e.g., Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland) called the “Third Way.”

Theorists of the Third Way during that period insisted that those claiming that countries in this region have to choose between the Soviet type of collectivization of agriculture, and a capitalist, plantation type of transformation of the predominantly semi-feudal manorial estates, offer a false choice. They argued that proletarianization of the whole peasantry is not inevitable. It is possible and even desirable to transform some of the peasants into family farmers and the urban artisans into industrial entrepreneurs. Those theorists of the Third Way emphasized the need for and possibility of making a domestic propertied bourgeoisie—domestic embourgeoisement.

Today the message of the Third Way theory is very much alive. Those who subscribe to it similarly give priority to the development of a domestic bourgeoisie. In...

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