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In Pursuit of Liberalism

International Institutions in Postcommunist Europe

Rachel A. Epstein

Publication Year: 2008

Though the fall of the Soviet Union opened the way for states in central and eastern Europe to join the world of market-oriented Western democracies, the expected transitions have not been as easy, common, or smooth as sometimes perceived. Rachel A. Epstein investigates how liberal ideas and practices are embedded in transitioning societies and finds that success or failure depends largely on creating a social context in which incentives held out by international institutions are viewed as symbols of an emerging Western identity in the affected country. Epstein first explains how a liberal worldview and institutions like the European Union, World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization go hand-in-hand and why Western nations assume that a broad and incremental program of incentives to join will encourage formerly authoritarian states to reform their political and economic systems. Using Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the Ukraine as case studies, she demonstrates the limits of conditionality in the face of national social perceptions and elucidates the three key points around which a consensus within the state must emerge before international institutions can expect liberalization: domestic officials must be uncertain about how changing policies will affect their interests; the status of international and domestic institutions must not be in jeopardy; and the proposed polices must seem credible. In making her case, Epstein cleverly bridges the gap between the rationalist and constructivist schools of thought. Offering new data on and fresh interpretations of reforming central bank policies, privatizing banks with foreign capital, democratizing civil-military relations, and denationalizing defense policy, In Pursuit of Liberalism extends well beyond the scope of previous book-length studies.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

List of Tables

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pp. ix-x

List of Acronyms and Abbreviations

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xiv

The topics in this book have commanded my interest for a very long time. And, as every author knows, turning interests into coherent arguments requires the help of many people and institutions along the way. I would first like to thank the members of my committee at Cornell University, whose counsel, they may be surprised to learn, I still think of and use every day—in the classroom, advising students, and ...

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pp. 1-6

Why do states adopt liberalizing reforms when doing so contradicts their domestic preferences and threatens to undermine their policy autonomy and national tradition? Even with the end of the Cold War and the collapse of communism, the appeal of political pluralism and free market enterprise was far from universal. For although countries in central and eastern Europe (CEE) converged on liberal ...

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1. Cultivating Consensus: International Institutions and a Liberal Worldview

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pp. 7-29

I present here a theory of institutional influence that locates the impetus for state-level compliance in social mechanisms, specifically in the cultivation of a common worldview. This common—liberal—worldview is anchored by a shared perception of where authority lies. For much of central and eastern Europe (CEE), the postcommunist transition has been marked by a shift from domestic ...

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2. Institutionalizing Central Bank Independence

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pp. 30-68

Converting socialist-era monobanks from quasi-fiscal instruments of the state into politically independent central banks is among the most important measures of how far postcommunist states have traveled on the road to Western-style market economies. By the late 1990s, many central and eastern European (CEE) central banks had already outdone even the German Bundesbank on measures of ...

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3. Internationalizing Bank Ownership

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pp. 69-106

The willingness of central and eastern European (CEE) states to allow significant levels of foreign investment in strategic sectors during the postcommunist transition is historically unprecedented. Nowhere is this more striking than in banking, where close to 70 percent of assets in Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic were foreign owned by the beginning of the twenty-first century. As in ...

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4. Democratizing Civil-Military Relations

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pp. 107-148

The accession of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1999 and of Romania in 2004 ought not to have been a vigorous test of NATO’s power to win compliance from candidate states. The proven vulnerability of all four states made membership in the world’s most successful military alliance a patently logical goal. The rise of democratic opposition ...

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5. Denationalizing Defense Planning and Foreign Policy

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pp. 149-191

In 2003, Poland was the fourth largest provider of military forces to the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, contributing approximately 2,500 soldiers and special forces. Over the following two years, as Poland was administering one of only three ‘‘stabilization’’ zones in Iraq, with 9,500 troops under its command, Romania, Ukraine, and Hungary also sent forces. All four countries had also

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pp. 192-214

Liberalism, in both its economic and political forms, was on the rise in the decades following the end of the Cold War. International capital mobility, trade, and investment reached new highs almost yearly (Simmons, Dobbin, and Garrett 2006). The privatization of formerly state-owned assets and the widespread acceptance of politically independent monetary and regulatory institutions were two ...

Appendix: Interviews

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pp. 215-218


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pp. 219-240


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pp. 241-257


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pp. 257-267

E-ISBN-13: 9780801895197
E-ISBN-10: 0801895197
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801889776
Print-ISBN-10: 0801889774

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2008