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Back to the future, or the past? : on the re-periperalization of Central-East Europe Starrs, Sean

Abstract

It is common for many commentators in the Western establishment to claim that "communism" collapsed in eastern Europe in 1989-91, and that the region henceforth is finally able to embark upon the path to the "free market", to join the hallowed halls of Western liberal "democracy". In addition, there is much credence given to the idea of the former state-socialists' rightful "Return to Europe" after half a century of "totalitarianism", now that much of at least central-east Europe is subsumed within the European Union. Underpinning many of these assertions is the ideology of modernization, that is, the beliefsystem that a given nation-state's "development" can follow a lineal evolution if a certain set of policy prescriptions are followed, and develop from industrializing to industrialized to advanced industrialized (or post-industrial). More often than not, the criteria to be a fullyfledged advanced industrialized country, or whatever other relevant stage at the apogee of progress, is simply a description of the West. The ideology of modernization can be divided into two opposing camps: neoliberalism and neomercantilism. Both advocate policy prescriptions to modernize a country (or so they claim); both theorize without any conceptualization of the projection of power in international relations. It is the central purpose of this thesis to provide an alternative to the above assertions, ideologies, and assumptions, by using the tools of analysis from mainly world-systems theory. The thesis argues that the "collapse" of state-socialism in central-east Europe should in fact be seen as its destruction, by certain processes and logics inherent to the capitalist world-economy. In particular, an analysis of the reconstitution of the world order by the core- particularly the hegemon- beginning in the 1970s and firmly established by the 1990swhat many misleadingly refer to as "globalization"- is crucial if we are to understand what is happening in central-east Europe (and indeed the world) today the return of its centuries old peripheral status in relation to the core, i.e. its re-peripheralization. Hence, this thesis concludes that we must look back to the past, not the future, in order to understand- and possibly change- the present. Key Words: Central-East Europe; Eastern Europe; European Enlargement; Globalization; International Political Economy, Modernization Theory, Neoliberalism; Poland; Post- Socialist Transformation; Transition Studies; World-Systems Theory.

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