CZECH EXCEPTIONALISM? A COMPARATIVE POLITICAL ECONOMY INTERPRETATION OF POST-COMMUNIST POLICY PATHWAYS, 1989-2004
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This article makes a plea for a more explicitly intentional and political-strategic analysis of post-communist public policy pathways. The author analyses a set of social and labour-market policies implemented in the Czech Republic (pro-active job loss prevention) compared to Hungary and Poland (large-scale non-elderly retirement), and indicates why, far from being fully constrained by structural or external variables or by international pressures, political elites were able to design policy packages that served to reduce anti-reform protests. Once enacted at a formative historical turning point, these early policies fundamentally reshaped the subsequent operational space of post-communist politics throughout the 1990s. They crystallised the distinct pathways of post-communist welfare regimes, and they enabled early, and irreversible, democratic and market reform progress. While seemingly inefficient, and definitely costly in public-finance terms, these policy packages contained a degree of political rationality, as they contributed to the making of the great Czech, Hungarian, and Polish transition success stories, in an otherwise highly heterogeneous population of post-communist transition cases.
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