Sub-project 7: Strategies and Actors of Economic Transformation

Polical Strategies & Actors of Economic Transformation. Path Dependencies and Long-Term Consequences for the GDR (East Germany), Poland and the Czech Republic

Team: Heiko Pleines (Research Centre for East European Studies at the University of Bremen, head of sub-project 7), Mareike zum Felde (University of Bremen), Charlotta Cordes (University of Bremen)

Research Questions:
  1. How far do the reform strategies of the 1990s continue to impact economic developments via path dependencies?
  2. Were there at the time and are there today sufficient numbers of competent and motivated actors in leading political positions, in the state administration and in economy-related interest groups to (be able to) adequately implement the respective reforms?

The economic transformation after the end of socialism was generally interpreted as the transfer of the Western concept of market economics. Early on, the academic debate addressed not just the question of speed ("shock therapy" vs. gradualism), but also issues of "compatibility" and of the "absorption capacity" of the respective societies (Bönker 2002, Deacon 1997, Graziadei 2009, Horowitz 2007, Pickel 1995, Stieglitz 2008).

However, the debate continues to focus on concepts of reform. The question referring to the degree to which the responsible actors in politics, state administration and society had the desire, competences and administrative capacities to implement the respective reforms has so far hardly been analysed in academic research.

That is why this subproject will bring together an analysis of political strategies and of the actors responsible for implementing them. The focus on implementation competencies/capacities and the integration of economy-related interest groups should allow a better understanding of long-term economic developments. Recruitment patterns, elite constellations as well as democratically legitimized interest conflicts (e.g. between employer associations and trade unions) have a tendency of creating path dependencies over decades.

The special case of East Germany, which is marked by the transfer of policies and actors from West Germany, is contrasted with Poland, which initially had the highest degree of economic expertise and independent interest groups among post-socialist countries, and with the Czech Republic, which even more so after the velvet divorce from Slovakia showed a high degree of economic integration beyond its borders.

Following the overall approach of the joint project, the subproject also looks at those aspects of economic transformation and economic policy which are directly related to entrepreneurial activities and innovation. The research focus will include interactions with the EU.

The subproject is organized in the form of case studies on the three countries. Each case study is based on a multi-method approach in order to analyze the different aspects of the cases adequately. Central methods are document analysis (of strategy papers, legal acts), content analysis (of parliamentary debates and media reporting), compilations of biographical profiles, statistical analysis of recruitment and career patterns (survival analysis) in relevant state institutions and economy-related interest groups as well as elite and expert interviews. In addition to this, opinion polls will be included in the analysis.

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