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Postcommunist Welfare States

Reform Politics in Russia and Eastern Europe

by Linda J. Cook

Publication Year: 2013

In the early 1990s, the countries of the former Soviet Bloc faced an urgent need to reform the systems by which they delivered broad, basic social welfare to their citizens. Inherited systems were inefficient and financially unsustainable. Linda J. Cook here explores the politics and policy of social welfare from 1990 to 2004 in the Russian Federation, Poland, Hungary, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

Most of these countries, she shows, tried to institute reforms based on a liberal paradigm of reduced entitlements and subsidies, means-testing, and privatization. But these proposals provoked opposition from pro-welfare interests, and the politics of negotiating change varied substantially from one political arena to another. In Russia, for example, liberalizing reform was blocked for a decade. Only as Vladimir Putin rose to power did the country change its inherited welfare system.

Cook finds that the impact of economic pressures on welfare was strongly mediated by domestic political factors, including the level of democratization and balance of pro- and anti-reform political forces. Postcommunist welfare politics throughout Russia and Eastern Europe, she shows, are marked by the large role played by bureaucratic welfare stakeholders who were left over from the communist period and, in weak states, by the development of informal processes in social sectors.

Published by: Cornell University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9

List of Figures and Tables

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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-17

This book is a product of years of research and study, and there are many people whose help and support I would like to acknowledge. First, I thank the social scientists in Moscow who have devoted their careers to studying Russia’s social sector and who gave generously of their expertise and time to explain a reality that was often obscured as much as revealed ...

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Introduction: Welfare States and Postcommunist Transitions

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pp. 1-30

The postcommunist transitions that altered the political and economic systems of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe had dramatic effects on their welfare states. As these countries moved into market transformation and deep recession in the early 1990s, their inherited systems of broad, basic social provision became financially unsustainable and ineffective. ...

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1. Old Welfare State Structures and Reform Strategies

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pp. 31-54

Communist-era welfare states were part of a distinctive developmental model that gave them unique features. Communist state bureaucracies controlled and planned their economies, allocating most material and human resources. The model entailed much more comprehensive and intrusive employment and income policies than are found in Western ...

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2. Non-negotiated Liberalization: Decentralizing Russia’s Welfare State and Moving It Off-Budget

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pp. 55-98

As the Soviet Union collapsed in the last half of 1991, a radically reformist leadership established itself at the head of the new Russia state. In the aftermath of his strong victory in the June 1991 Russian presidential election, Boris Yeltsin was granted extensive decree powers by the holdover legislature, the Supreme Soviet. He appointed a reform team headed by ...

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3. Contested Liberalization: Russia’s Politics of Polarization and Informalization

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pp. 99-144

In December 1993, Russian citizens elected a new legislature and narrowly approved a new constitution. The 1993 Russian constitution privileged the executive, giving him strong appointment, decree, and veto powers. But the new legislature, especially its lower house, the Duma, did provide some representation for societal interests, and it exercised ...

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4. Welfare Reform in Putin’s Russia: Negotiating Liberalization within the Elite

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pp. 145-192

Under the Putin presidency, Russia experienced something of a break-through in welfare state liberalization. In spring 2000, a high- profile government commission (the Gref Team) articulated a comprehensive liberalizing program that incorporated many elements of the failed Yeltsin-era efforts. The program acknowledged the signifi cant breakdown of the ...

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5. Comparing Postcommunist Welfare State Politics: Poland, Hungary, Kazakhstan, and Belarus

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pp. 193-238

I now add a comparative dimension to the book and ask who influenced decisions to cut, preserve, or reshape welfare provision in four additional post communist cases: Poland, Hungary, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. As explained in the introduction, these two pairs of cases were chosen because their political systems stand at opposite ends of the postcommunist spec-...

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Conclusion: Negotiating Welfare in Democratic and Authoritarian Transitions

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pp. 239-256

The five cases of welfare state reform reviewed in this book show three distinct trajectories and outcomes during the post communist decade. In Poland and Hungary a gradual process of liberalization produced contracted but still relatively extensive and effective welfare states that a preponderance of public over private expenditure in the social ...


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pp. 257-268

E-ISBN-13: 9780801460098
E-ISBN-10: 0801460093
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801479007
Print-ISBN-10: 0801479002

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1