P053 – Comparison of Political Cultures of Post-colonial Africa and Post-communist Europe
9 July, 14:00 – 15:30

Skalnik Petr / University of Hradec Králové and University of Wroclaw (Czech Republic)


Political cultures differ because historical, economic, and political experiences are not the same in various countries and regions. Whereas in Africa political cultures reflect the contradictions of pre-colonial, colonial and postcolonial developments, in Eastern Europe the political diversity is the result of differential experiences with pre-capitalist, capitalist and communist orders. Colonial and communist systems of government were not yet subjected to a systematic and critical comparative analysis. The suggestion that postcolonial and post-communist periods are comparable is not altogether new but not much was done in concrete terms. The panel aims at breaking the myth of incomparability of political culture between continents and among different parts of the continents. Moreover, it will show the usefulness of the hitherto unusual comparisons and give new sense to data which otherwise would remain tautological. In other words African political cultures would remain exotic and thus misunderstood unless they are compared with political cultures of another world regions, such as post-communist Eastern Europe.

Comparaison des cultures politiques de l’Afrique post-coloniale et post-communiste en Europe orientale
Les cultures politiques diffèrent parce que l’histoire, l’économie, et l’expérience politique ne sont pas identiques dans divers pays et régions. Alors qu’en Afrique les cultures politiques reflètent les contradictions des développements précoloniaux, coloniaux et post-coloniaux, en Europe Orientale la diversité politique est le résultat d’expériences différentes consécutives aux ordres précapitalistes, capitalistes et communistes. Systèmes Coloniaux et Communistes du gouvernement n’ont pas encore été analysés de manière systématiques ou même sous un angle critique. La proposition selon laquelle les périodes postcoloniales et postcommunistes sont comparables n’est pas entièrement nouvelle mais encore peu d’analyses ont été proposées en ce sens. Le panel veut mettre un terme au mythe selon lequel la culture politique entre les continents et différentes parties des continents ne seraient pas comparables. Par ailleurs nous souhaitons montrer l’utilité de comparaisons peu usitées jusqu’à présent et donner un sens nouveau aux données qui autrement resteraient tautologiques. Autrement dit, les cultures politiques africaines resteront exotiques et incomprises sans être comparées avec les cultures politiques d’une autre région du monde comme l’Europe Orientale postcommuniste.


Paper 1

Dimitrova Svetlana / RIAM-FMSH Paris

Post-Communist and post-Colonial Societies under the Projectors of Paradigms

Les sociétés postcommunistes en Europe de l’Est et les sociétés postcoloniales en Afrique, tout comme les sociétés postdictatoriales en Amérique latine, ont été analysées en termes de transition. Le terme transition a été largement utilisé, afin de désigner un régime politique instable « en voie de démocratisation » avec trois phases – ouverture, percée, consolidation . A des étapes différentes de leurs histoires, des pays de divers contextes devaient se désendetter par rapport à l’histoire globale et accomplir leur « démocratisation ».
Le caractère finaliste de la transitologie assigne a priori un aboutissement obligatoire. Pour la path dependence, il s’agissait de nuancer les « passages à la démocratie » en cherchant le passé des « sentiers » dans un contexte historique précis. Le changement, même fondamental, n’est pas un passage d’un ordre à l’autre mais se traduit par des réaménagements selon des intrications complexes entre ordre existant et nouvel ordre (involution versus rupture révolutionnaire ou évolution).
Nombre de critiques des deux paradigmes – la transitologie et la path dependence – ont proposé d’autres approches ; les plus convaincantes insistent sur le terrain concret comme point de départ. Mais ces tentatives ont-elles toutes réussi à abandonner le modèle démocratique d’évaluation en toile de fond et par conséquent, la rhétorique de « crise », de « problème », de « paradoxe », d’« échec », etc., de la voie de transition ?

Paper 2

Szántó Diana / PTE (University of Pécs)

The Rise and Decline of Project Society

The paper develops a strange parallel between the evolution of the political environment in two countries that few would imagine fit to be incorporated in the same analytical framework for comparative purposes: Hungary and Sierra Leone. The parallel highlights the changing faces of a particular form of the developmental state, in which NGOs play a major role, where civil society is vested with an intrinsic democratic value and where welfare redistribution is increasingly substituted by short term projects. This is Project Society. For nearly 25 years Project Society was blooming. Democracy seemed to be deeply embedded in the political culture, growth was on acceptable levels in Hungary and it hit record levels in Sierra Leone by 2012. Ernest Bai Koroma, President of Sierra Leone started his second term in 2012. Victor Orban, Prime Minister of Hungary formed government for the third time in 2014. Something was changing. These regimes did not need civil society as much as before. Some NGOs, both foreign and local, were perceived as a threat and got attacked by the power, both here and there. In the midst of still growing poverty, authoritarianism was sneaking back to politics. Project society failed to defend the very values to which it owed its existence. Possible causes underlying this failure might be a changing global power-balance, but also the incapacity, or rather the unwillingness of project society to address economic inequalities.

Paper 3

Korhonen Juho / Brown University, Providence, RI, USA

Converging Post-Socialisms? – Peripheries of the Second World in Comparison

In this mainly theoretical preparation for a larger comparative project I explore statehood in peripheral post-socialist states with the cases of Tanzania and the post-Soviet south in the framework of the fall of the so-called Second World. While many states of the Second World were successful to one degree or another in realigning and redefining themselves, many, especially whose statehood fully rested on the socialist alternative, have failed. I attempt to understand this statehood from the perspective of the contradictions and problems that it today encounters. I approach the phenomenon of peripheral post-socialist state-building from the perspectives of the meaning of statehood and the collision of global knowledge cultures with local historical ones. I argue that a peculiar case of in-betweenness has arisen, defined by the undermined image of their statehood, neither aligning with or contesting the current world-system. I call this the post-periphery, where the prefix means tha
t, as consequence of the collapse of that Second World, this periphery is no longer perceivable as the proto form of a more advanced core and has lost legitimation for imagining and defining the future of their statehood. However, in discussing this post-socialist predicament I do not propose a categorical model but rather aim for a Weberian ideal type description to better understand the convergence of some post-socialist states and yet the divergence of the ex-Second World as a whole.

Paper 4

Virtanen Pekka / University of Jyväskylä, Finland

Pacted Transition to Democracy: Mozambique in the Light of post-Communist Europe

A third wave of democratization, which begun in the mid-1970s from Southern Europe and moved on to Latin America, penetrated communist Europe in the late 1980s. Comparative analyses of the first phase indicated that a democratic outcome was most likely when contending parties were relatively equal and elites made a pact to navigate the transition process. However, some researchers (e.g. McFaul) have argued that the transition process has actually been quite different in the post-communist countries, and should be called the ‘fourth wave of democracy & dictatorship’. In particular pacted transitions between equals have led to protracted and often violent confrontations resulting in competitive authoritarianism.
Democratisation reached Africa in the 1990s, but assessments of the progress there have been pessimistic as the process has in most cases stopped at the level of electoral democracy. In Mozambique the transition from state-socialist to liberal-democratic system in the 1990s was based on a pact between Frelimo and Renamo – following the model of the negotiations for independence between Frelimo and Portugal’s MFA in 1974. While the 1992 peace agreement created the formal conditions for democracy, the regime is closer to competitive authoritarianism. The paper analyses the process in Mozambique in the light of Portuguese state-corporatist tradition and the experience of post-communist Europe

Paper 5

Šváblová Alžběta / BIGSAS, University of Bayreuth

Dealing with the Violent Past: Liberia and the Czech Republic in a Comparative Perspective

Liberian civil war left the country destroyed and its population traumatized by an unprecedent scope of violence and atrocities. There were efforts supported by the international community to deal with the past through the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2005, and indirectly through the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Both initiatives brought rather ambiguous results. Nowadays, the perceived lack of accountability and a prevailing culture of impunity have a serious impact on the legitimity of the state.
The Czechoslovak communist regime‘s record of violence and repressions, starting with the “show trials” in the 1950s, was followed by persecution of dissidents and other groups. After the revolution in 1989, national reconciliation, rather than radical decomunization was the order of the day. After investigations, resulting in singular trials, the focus of the initiatives moved rather to the historic reconstruction of a regime’s record.
Although different at the first sight, both cases have a number of features worth comparing. The proposed paper will analyze the similarities and differences in general strategies of dealing with the violent past on the macro-level and their results. Consequently, it will focus on the implications of the latter on the political culture in both countries.

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