2015

Poland on the Economic Periphery

Poland is in the center of Europe. Poles often stress that their country is in Central Europe, not Eastern Europe. The title of Norman Davies’ immense study of Poland is The Heart of Europe. Indeed, throughout history Poland has been central to the European experience, from the medieval curriculum at Jagiellonian University in Krakow and… Continue reading Poland on the Economic Periphery

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The Market Before the Market

When East-Central Europe made the transition to market economies after 1989, journalists sometimes referred to the process as “overnight capitalism.” This gave the impression that the countries in the region were Communist one day and capitalist the next. In fact, the market was present in most of the countries in the region in one form… Continue reading The Market Before the Market

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The Disappointment of Fulfilled Dreams

“May your dreams come true” is purportedly an ancient Chinese curse. Although it is probably apocryphal – just as the Chinese never say “may you live in interesting times” — the phrase does contain an element of truth. It is often the longing and anticipation that we crave, not the realization of our hopes. Nothing… Continue reading The Disappointment of Fulfilled Dreams

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2014

The Strange Non-Death of Polish Neo-Liberalism

Neo-liberalism, like the famous cat, seems to have nine lives in Poland. The effort to cut back the state and give freer rein to the market has suffered at least three near-death experiences. The initial “shock therapy” approach implemented by Leszek Balcerowicz in the first Solidarity-affiliated government in 1990 generated such high unemployment and social… Continue reading The Strange Non-Death of Polish Neo-Liberalism

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Cement

Fyodor Gladkov published his novel Cement in 1925. One of the first examples of socialist realism, it depicted the post-revolutionary construction of the Soviet Union from the point of view of a cement factory. Gleb, a Soviet soldier who returns to his hometown, discovers that in a few short years everyone has forgotten about the… Continue reading Cement

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Managing the Economic Transition

For most countries in East-Central Europe, capitalism didn’t arrive overnight in 1989 or 1990. Even in the more controlled environments like Romania, people could get a taste of capitalism by buying or trading on the black market. Hungary, on the other hand, was far ahead of its neighbors in this respect. It had been experimenting… Continue reading Managing the Economic Transition

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Working Women

Women entered the workforce in large numbers in East-Central Europe after World War II. One reason was necessity. The countries had been devastated by war, and many able-bodied men had died as soldiers and forced laborers. Another reason was ideology. Communism emphasized full employment. Women in the region would eventually participate in the labor market… Continue reading Working Women

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