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[The Political Analysis of Postcommunism. Kyiv: Political Thought, 1995, pp. 175-186.]

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Chapter 3.

The Political Sociology of Postcommunism

Serhiy MAKEYEV, Volodymyr VOLOVYCH. Introduction Serhiy MAKEYEV.



Externally, the society referred to by sociologists and political scientists as postcommunist does not much resemble its socalled "socialist" predecessor. There are many surface indicators of social and political life which seem to testify that changes and transformations have occurred: the "nouveau riches" and the "new poor," strata which have formed very rapidly, within a year or two; the unprecedented penchant for creating new political parties; the new or, to be more exact, "finally restored" pantheon of the real historical and cultural heroes of the nation and state; the reassessment of the past and the desired future all these show that society is actively and steadily producing and accumulating its own idiosyncratic formulas of self-determination and self-identification. One could get the impression that it is hastening to assure itself and others of not only its craving to be transformed but also to demonstrate the genuineness and irreversibility of its transformation. "New" is just the word that is used most frequently to describe the processes under way. Moreover, attempts are made to present everything now taking place and happening as "new," as changes for better or worse. Yet, in all this supposedly "new" a keen observer can still discern invariables as well as traces and vestiges of the "old." And this is precisely the task of a sociologist, who tries to find continuity and succession.

At the same time, one must admit that emergent social entities strata, layers, classes, institutions, and organizations are sometimes difficult to identify and define in tra-/178/ditional sociological or political science terms and paradigms: they have no analogs just as there is no historical analog for the attempt to transform a socialist state system into a democracy along the lines of a relative separation of the state from the public, social, and economic spheres. For this reason some sociologists and political scientists suggest various terms: perhaps "social embryology" for the study of social forms which are in the process of being transformed into something quite different from what they are now, or something like "social parasitology" for monitoring newly emerging formations which are being produced en masse in the situation of economic and social crisis and genetically related to the latter, or else "social pathology" to account for the disintegration of structures of social and everyday life, the ruinous and murderous interethnic and international conflicts, and the degradation of moral norms and the system of social values.

This is why, within the framework of the political sociology of postcommunism, the following has now emerged as most urgent: a profound understanding and ideologically unbiased description of the process of social differentiation and stratification, and a development of promising approaches to the analysis of crises. Useful for understanding what is happening in postcommunist societies and whether they are making a permanent break with the past may be relevant to the interpretation of political discourse. As some observations show, the latter is very sensitive to current trends of social differentiation and is simultaneously extremely conservative, for it is connected with language and linguistic cliches and stereotypes which can reveal the superficial imitation of fashionable political rhetoric and disclose the underlying basis in the practice of mass discourse. The sociological import of verbal communication lies also in the fact that its production, dissemination and, not least, suggestion of images of social structure and stratification can either consolidate the masses into solidarity-based communities or set one community against another. Individuals and groups also make use of such images to define their own and other economic and political situations, their own and other social and cultural identities.








Tendencies of Social Stratification



If models of social structuralization and stratification are considered sort of semi-finished products created by civilization, which are then finished by nation-states with due account paid to their historical and cultural specifics, then Ukraine has not only been unsuccessful in such work but seems to have failed to start it. Continual pledges by the authorities of their devotion to democratic ideals and market economy have remained but political rhetoric, for these legal, economic, and social values and slogans have neither been translated into norms nor become models and examples of behavior to be followed. As a result, Ukraine's independence has already had its verbalized political history commemorated in symbols but still lacks its own traditions. Undisguised discontinuity in actions, promises, appeals, and most important, discontinuity in responsibility these are all the most prominent features of the past few years. Only curves of production decline and inflation are stable. We see all the signs of a process which Joseph Schumpeter would unhesitatingly call non-creative construction and non-creative destruction: whatever is creative or destructive can in this period only aggravate the situation.

The causes of this situation are clearly objective in origin and lie inside the bounds of the history of independent Ukraine rather than in malicious plots of some outside forces. In order to make clear what has happened since the referendum of December 1, 1991 on Ukrainian independence, one may use the following image. At the close of that /180/year rich in political developments, Ukraine suddenly discovered that it had, so to say, the relative muscle mass of Gulliver in Lilliput, in the form of giant military-industrial, metallurgical, coal-mining, and other complexes. All of them had worked earlier for the whole Soviet Union, while presently the new-born sovereign republic acquired them as an anticipated inheritance. The industrial hypertrophy showed through immediately and inadvertently. On the other hand, as a state, Ukraine was a sort of Tom Thumb with a midget sociopolitical skeletal frame in some parts, inadequately formed and without any experience of independent and self-sustained existence, nor without any clear-cut idea of statehood that could sum up the expectations and orientations of the public at large.

This chimerical hodgepodge of the gigantic and the miniature, of obsolete and unformed structures, knocked Ukraine over and" made it bedridden. Such a position is fraught with bedsores. And such was the case: to use philosophical terms, opacities and impenetrabilities formed in the socioeconomic body which divided autonomous areas of selforganization living according to their own rules and norms and producing models of development only for themselves. At the same time, the social body as a whole does not reform and progress, i.e., it remains historically motionless. There are many indications of this on the surface of social life. Most indicative in this respect may be claims of the second President in a row for creating the "power hierarchy." Noticeable in these are easily inferred allusions to the mutual alienation of the central and local authorities parties which cannot communicate and must be enabled to do so. The president's decrees are revoked, the government is puzzled by the quaint responses of commercial and production structures to the decisions it makes life, in all its obviousness, goes on according to its own rules, which are quite different from the legally established ones.

Moreover, the organizations and structures to be formed are reproduced according to patterns and models of a bare-faced bureaucratic and totalitarian vein. Here is one example from the field of science, but similar things happen in /181/ other spheres, too. In Ukraine it did not take long to set up the Supreme Attestation Commission (SAC), which approves all post-graduate degrees granted by Ukrainian institutions of higher learning. And it has convincingly demonstrated itself to be an institution no less conservative, inert, and prone to dictate its patterns of behavior to the scientific community and to control the latter, than was the former All-Union SAC. Such an institution is characteristic of a very centralized state and can function efficiently only within its framework.

For all the obvious socioeconomic ruin, one still cannot call Ukraine's economy a no-win game. There are, no doubt, people here who know the rules of the economic contest with a vague and unpredictable outcome. Large blocks of capital are being accumulated; new private enterprises are being founded, which manage to prosper under the strictest regulation; networks of equivalent and inequivalent exchanges are being established. Rather quickly, especially in the big cities, a particular "industrial-permissive class" is being formed from young and energetic individuals with high incomes, served by a diversified network of casinos, bars, restaurants, exclusive shops, etc., and an infrastructure for spending hard currency earnings. And next to them, dragging out a miserable existence, are zones of economic anemia, tissue decay, and the irretrievable loss of work motivation.

These are not social contrasts; they are completely sovereign enclaves in the economic arena of postcommunist Ukraine where tendencies for further isolation and seclusion prevail. The individuals belonging to them hardly come into contact. They go to different stores. The downtowns of the cities, hitherto the traditional residence of the high-ranking state and party elite, are quietly being resettled by the nouveau riches, who are also actively building exclusive suburbs. And the bedroom communities of the less privileged are pushed farther and farther from the business center; their inhabitants use various transport, some private and others public, which operates more and more poorly. This separation of life spheres and the lack of immediate contact /182/ obviously fosters the diffusion of social tension and is a certain "cunning" of the socium, like an instinct of self-preservation, trying to prevent the concentration of social energy. But its weight is felt more and more in mass and political discourse, and it is precisely in this that the two societies are juxtaposed (for more, see section four below).

The new social division results from the uncertain workings of the mechanism of recreating the social structure. This is why in what results from these workings, large social groups and strata, it is difficult to find certain things we were quite familiar with in the past, practically nothing of what we hoped for the future, while new, often unexpected traits abound. In the elements of social structure which are taking shape before our eyes, so much unforeseen, the old and the new, the nonviable and the vibrant, combine or coexist that it becomes difficult to ignore or even deny the idea that a spontaneous structuralization into zones of imperviousness is taking place in Ukrainian society.

This is to some degree caused by the fact that a certain autonomy has been acquired by certain sections of the mechanism responsible for the reproduction of a normal or socially necessary social structure. Three such links have distanced themselves from one another: social institutions (primarily the state); the normative value system which provides for a certain degree of solidarity and accord among population groups and strata; and finally, the actions of individuals and groups which in principle should be governed by one or another social institution and oriented toward legitimate, universally binding, and normatively confirmed behavior patterns and models.

That is why the state is isolated and undeveloped market elements (i.e., the other emerging most important social institution) have undoubtedly failed to cope with their structure-forming and structure-supporting roles. Moreover, a normative value system, obligatory for most people and supported by them, can be formed only in accordance with the new goals of social development and dominant political rhetoric. Only in highly developed forms will it be able not only to exert a decisive influence on the degree of inter-/183/group solidarity and accord but also to give birth to new social strata and population groups unaccustomed to the old ideas (socialist and older) myths and thus adequate to the socioeconomic reality.

Against this background of feebleness, inertia, and the extremely sluggish response of the principal social institutions, when recognized systems of values and ideals are lacking, the structure-forming, socially-differentiating roles of the state, market, and other social institutions have practically passed on to the spontaneous activity of individuals and their corporativist associations, which assume the form of a survival reflex in conditions of adaptation to crisis circumstances. One can argue that situationally temporary and often purely accidental factors in the formation of the social structure have prevailed over the long-term (or, to be more exact, "systemic") ones typical of dynamically developing economies functioning stably and also over legitimate values and norms.

As a logical result of the emergence and establishment of areas of impermeability in the mechanism of reproducing the social structure, the molding of societal entities capable, under optimal conditions, of becoming the basis of a market economy (businessmen, financiers, managers, financial intermediaries, and commercial middle-men) takes place very slowly. At the same time, the emergence and shaping of "non-systemic" elements of structure is rapidly speeded up, elements which lack any perspective for development but have the ability to reproduced themselves, to defend their interests, and satisfy their needs thanks to their access to both deficit resources and thanks to the creation of new, including illegitimate and illegal, possibilities to satisfy economic, social, and political demands.

A tripartite division of society into the weakening elements of social structure (layers and categories of population), those growing stronger and thriving, and those holding their own in preventing the decline in their material and social status seems, at present, to be most prominent and is clearly felt in the arena of social life. They have different destinies and different prospects for the immediate and /184/ medium-term future, and hence, those who belong to them display very different social attitudes and conditions. Those who fall into the category of weakening elements are experiencing a crisis of state dependency and a crisis of their selfidentification with it. The crux of the matter is that education, competence, and experience cannot guarantee one's security in this society nor prevent the decline of one's living standards. Today, the rules which govern the distribution of social and material wealth, and which regulate access to such wealth, have nothing in common with either a planned or market economy.

For many, these rules are vague and ambiguous at best; at worst, they are unfair and humiliating. An important result of this trend is the progressive destructuralization and destratification of that segment of the population which is economically active in the state sector of the economy. Growing anxiety, a feeling of social degradation, and a decline in one's identification with previous economic interests characterize the feeling of this category of Ukrainian society. From this flows a crisis of community status, for the state fails to meet their social expectations. Moreover, this crisis of community status is accompanied and compounded with the crisis of professional and personal identity, developing against the background of a general inability to resist, individually or jointly with colleagues, lower standards of living and consumption.

By contrast, the layers of population which are thriving, growing stronger, and rapidly accumulating material wealth still lack a level of social respect and recognition which could normatively affirm the legitimacy of their own existence. These are the bearers of socioeconomic competence, and they know the rules governing the distribution and exchange of scarce resources. Differences in clothes and life-styles bespeak the social distance between them and other social groups. Satisfying their value claims is possible if normative values completely different from the old ones are confirmed, old ideas whose bearers are the weakening elements of the social structure.

Heterogeneous is the category of population which /185/ manages to preserve its social and material status. A segment of it is obviously interested in preserving the status quo, for its main source of profits is derived from the opportunities to acquire and exchange resources, and these opportunities are reproduced by the crisis. By actively participating in systems of economic management and circulation of wealth, which exist parallel to the official ones, they inevitably engage in competition and confrontation with the state and market economy structures, but no less often they enter into agreements on division of spheres of influence and proportion of distribution of profits and privileges. Another part of this category seems not to be inwardly inclined to take advantage of the crisis situation, but is forced to yield to the pressure of unfavorable circumstances.

Disorder and chaos, as well as uncertainty as to what model of social distribution should be chosen, can cause the social whole to become unstructured. The same effect might also result from the deep structuralization flowing from the existence of zones impenetrability and opacity. To be sure, in Ukraine we are dealing with the latter phenomenon: the social fabric is not whole, it is torn to pieces. And the division of the social whole is both a result of the general crisis and a prerequisite for its further conservation.

Thanks to the action of various factors, a bipolar image of the social structure is taking shape in the popular consciousness fixed by various oppositions: "upper/lower," "strong/weak," "those getting richer/those getting poorer," "situationally competent/situationally incompetent," "winners/losers." Thus, a contradictory social structural ization and stratification of postcommunist society is taking place. The most competent and active have changed profession, taken on additional work, and are trying to prevent the lowering of their living standards. Others still expect assistance, protection, cultivate paternalist attitudes and expectations, and they vote accordingly at elections. Becoming even more essential among the factors of stratification are the ability and capability to take advantage of opportunities to upgrade one's status and to cope successfully with non-traditional varieties of activities. Thus, at the initial stages of the trans-/186/formation of a state socialist society into a postcommunist model of structuralization and stratification one is reminded more of a conflict model than of a functional one.









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