ABOUT THIS BOOK
A powerful exposition of how culture shapes social and political change.
"Transition" is the name typically given to the time of radical change following the fall of communism, connoting a shift from planned to market economy, from dictatorship to democracy. Transition is also, in Michael Kennedy's analysis, a culture in its own right-with its own contentions, repressions, and unrealized potentials. By elaborating transition as a culture of power and viewing it in its complex relation to emancipation, nationalism, and war, Kennedy's book clarifies the transformations of postcommunism as well as, more generally, the ways in which culture articulates social change. This ambitious work is, in effect, a nuanced critical-cultural sociology of change.
Kennedy examines transition culture's historical foundation by looking at the relationship among perestroika, Poland, and Hungary, and considers its structure and practice in the following decade across fields and nations. His wide-ranging analysis-of the artifacts of transition culture's proponents, of interviews with providers and recipients of technical assistance in business across Eastern Europe, and of focus groups assessing the successes and failures of social change in Estonia and Ukraine-suggests a transition culture deeply implicated in nationalism. But this association, Kennedy contends, is not necessarily antithetical to transition's emancipation. By reconsidering transition culture's relationship to the Wars of Yugoslav Succession and communism's negotiated collapse in Poland and Hungary, he shows how transition might be reconceived in terms of solidarity, freedom, and peace.
Distinguished by its focus on culture, not only within particular nations but in the transnational community organized around transition, this book will help reframe the debate about postcommunist social change.
Michael D. Kennedy is vice provost for international affairs, director of the International Institute, and associate professor of sociology at the University of Michigan.