Stuck in Transition: Rebranding Post-socialism as the Global East?
Post-socialism as the main frame for understanding change in countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the FSU has been criticised as no longer relevant and oriented towards the past rather than the future. Yet, a new conceptual frame is still in the making. As diverging transition paths have led to variegated outcomes, including democracy, authoritarianism, and some ‘in between’ cases, the early-stage optimism gave way to growing scepticism about the validity of the transition paradigm. The multiplicity of post-socialisms does not fit easily into any overarching concept such as ‘transition’, ‘democratisation’, or ‘democracy with adjectives’. Hence, there have been attempts to rethink, revive, or rebrand the debates seemingly stuck ‘in transition’.
Human geographers also contribute to these debates by seeking to conceptually frame this part of the world that was defined as the ‘Soviet Bloc’ or ‘the Second World’. Attempts to find a new synthesis have formed around three arguments. First, framing diverse processes in the former socialist countries as part of totalising process of the installation of the global neoliberal order (Golubchikov 2016). Second, developing a post-colonial critique of transition and expecting post-socialist societies to “speak back” to the hegemonic core (Borén and Young 2016). Third, conceptualising the Global East as a de-territorialised phenomenon (Tuvikene 2016), an “epistemic space – a liminal space in-between North and South” (Müller 2020). While these conceptualisations try to overcome the limitations of the transition paradigm and offer new promising perspectives, many questions remain unsolved. Can democracy and market be a universal ideal? Can dividing the world into the Global North, South, and East be a way forward? What can/should be expected from countries ‘stuck in transition’?
Comments: Professor Sanna Turoma, Tampere University; Aleksanteri Institute colleague from 2009 to 2020. See Sanna’s research profile here
Moderator: Anna Korhonen, Head of International Affairs, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki