The State Against Society: Political Crises and Their Aftermath in East Central Europe

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The State Against Society: Political Crises and Their Aftermath in East Central Europe

By Grzegorz Ekiert
Princeton University Press, 1996
435 pp. $59.50
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Ekiert reverses things: Rather than explore the way authoritarian leaders, an overpowering party, the formal creed, and the other tools and features of the postwar East European regimes shaped events until control slipped away, he chooses instead to examine how these regimes and everything around them were shaped by a particular class of events. Namely, he focuses on crises -- the Hungarian crisis of 1956-63, the Czechoslovak crisis of 1968-76, and the Polish crisis of 1980-89. He argues convincingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, that these extended traumas profoundly influenced the coherence of elites, the cohesion and vitality of popular opposition, and the evolution of the collective mindset, but in different ways in different countries. These differences, in turn, he maintains, largely account for the contrasts in the way the system expired after 1989. Perhaps. But one is still left to explain parallels and differences in the demise of other regimes whose histories were not molded in crises.