Cultural Political Economy of East European Capitalisms: A Preliminary Analysis

Thursday, 19 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Borut RONCEVIC, School of Advanced Social Studies, Slovenia
Three decades of development since the beginning of historic transformations in Eastern Europe resulted in quite distinct manifestations of East European capitalisms. Both the (geographical) scope and (temporal) perspective of these processes provides us with ample empirical evidence to study specific mechanisms and processes of their emergence and the ongoing continuous transformations. In this paper I employ the Cultural Political Economy (CPE) approach, focusing on semiotic mechanisms of their constitution and material reproduction. With that in mind, I define an instance of (national) capitalism as a successful materialization of a specific economic imaginary, a semiotic order of specific discourses and the resulting set of social practices. After reviewing the main typologies of East European capitalisms I analyze the emergence of specific types of capitalisms by focusing on semiotic evolutionary mechanisms of variation, selection, retention, reinforcement, and selective recruitment, inculcation and retention. In this analysis I recognize, firstly, that for most East European countries past three decades are not a single period; in some cases we can identify a rapid succession of relatively distinct phases, shaped by both geopolitical challenges and opportunities, and volatile internal processes. This implies, secondly, that the (trans)formations of East European capitalisms are not finished and will continue well into the future, with uncertain outcomes.