The transition of the former socialist countries of East and Central Europe to a pluralistic, democratic system of governance and a modern market economy has involved historically-unparalleled changes. In contrast to past examples of systemic transition, democratization in these countries has not resulted from an organic process of development, resting on other social and economic changes, but from “socio-political implosion”, brought about internally by the collapse of their own socialist regimes and externally by the impact of the dissolution and dismemberment of the Soviet Union.
The global information revolution, providing a window upon the transition process, added another dimension to the unique quality of the upheaval. Never before, in the period of modern history, has the process of transition so clearly demonstrated the complex interaction between past and present, political, economic and social processes, cultural values and institutions, and national and international influences.
This volume forms part of the United Nations’ study of the global democratic process and offers a specific contribution to the global dialogue on democracy in transition. Eminent specialists in the field, many from the countries under discussion, provide a regional perspective on the interrelation between political and economic change, and delineate the unprecedented challenges recent developments have presented both to the states in transition and to the international community.
Mihály Simai is a research professor at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Institute for World Economics and a professor of International Economic and Business Studies at Budapest University of Economics.