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Explaining systemic change: The political economy of post-communist transformations

Liliana Pop

CSGR Working Paper No. 98/02

May 2002




The end of the communist regimes in Europe was regarded initially as a challenge to social sciences. The transformations towards democracy and market economy on which these countries embarked after 1990 spanned the economic and the political spheres. They also involved a swift reinsertion in the world economy. Thus, the need for integrative approaches that could give an account of systemic change is obvious. However, most scholarship on post-communist transformations has maintained the traditional division of labour between different social science disciplines.

This paper explores the possibility of articulating such an integrative approach to systemic change by reviewing current theories in Economics, Politics and International Political Economy. In each of these disciplines, neo-liberal, neo-institutionalist, and reflexive theories are investigated in order to establish their potential for integration in a political economy approach of transformations that could also be useful in understanding the relationships between the domestic and the international spheres. Finally, it is suggested that while within all of these groups, theories from the different disciplines use similar analytical presuppositions and explanatory strategies, it is only the reflexive theories that say enough about the relationships between the different spheres, as relationships of relative autonomy from each other, to enable the articulation of a few working hypotheses about how these relationships might be studied. At the same time, it is recognised that in so far as the economic, political, domestic and international spheres are considered under the aspects that account for their autonomy from each other, neo-institutional approaches could also be usefully employed.

Keywords: Economics, Politics, International Political Economy, Neo-liberalism, Neo-institutionalism, Reflexive theories

Address for correspondence

Dr Liliana Pop
Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation
University of Warwick
Coventry CV4 7AL
Tel: 024 7652 8907
Fax: 024 7657 2548
E-mail: OR

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