Publication details

Escape from arbitrariness : Legitimation crisis of real socialism and the imaginary of modernity


ŚWIREK Krzysztof POSPĚCH Pavel

Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source European Journal of Social Theory
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Keywords Arbitrariness; market economy; modernity; post-socialism; socialism
Description The 1989 revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe and the subsequent transitions have commonly been interpreted in political terms, as movements towards democracy, or in economic terms, as escape from the command economy towards the free market. We revisit the problem to suggest a different reading. We argue that in the legitimization crisis of real socialism, a pivotal role was played by the burden of social oversaturation and bureaucratic arbitrariness, which met its desired alternative in social imaginaries of impersonal, objective social system. For the citizens of Central and East European countries, this fantasy was matched by the promise of the free market, which was morally contrasted to the experience of daily life under late socialism. We argue that this desire to escape from arbitrariness to objectivity is a particularly strong motive in the imaginary of modernity which found one of its historical manifestations in the disappointment with real socialism.