The Legacies of 1989: Myths and Realities of Civil Society

Issue Date January 2014
Volume 25
Issue 1
Page Numbers 46-58
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The reconstitution of civil society in the postcommunist world is misunderstood. Commonly diagnosed as weak and ineffective, really existing civil societies vary widely across the region. They differ from each other along several dimensions: constitution of public space, organizational composition, patterns of behavior, and normative orientations. Such differences result from dissimilar legacies of communism, diverging patterns of transformation, and different regime types. In Central Europe civil societies are generally as developed as in some countries of the West. In Central Asia incipient civic organizations are constrained in a manner resembling the pre-1989 Eastern Europe. In other parts of the former communist world, associational life has intensified despite many obstacles, but civil societies are politically impotent.