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Coordinated by Sabin DRĂGULIN

Three Ends, Two Transitions, One Crisis:

The Quest for the Lost Transition in Balkan Normative Order

 

Ilia ROUBANIS

National School of Public Administration, Athens

 

 

Abstract: In the comparative politics literature, “transitology” is the study of a particular kind of regime change, namely the passage from “non-democracy” to a liberal regime. This article widens the scope of the investigation, addressing the question of how grand teleological narratives of socioeconomic transformation, including but not limited to the democratisation project, are domesticated in normative terms. It does so by retrieving Balkan constitutional texts and analysing them as “narratives of transition”. The texts selected are from characteristically “revolutionary” periods: 1945, the 1960s, and 1989, corresponding to major shifts in modernist socioeconomic narratives. It is argued that in both socialist and liberal discursive traditions, “transition” is a fully perspective and open-ended “historical stage” characterised by a series of reforms, not least constitutional, intended to conclusively transform society. However, a comparable transitory narrative from or to the “European Social Model” has never existed; yet, it is precisely this narrative that emerges as the current economic crisis unfolds. As such, the term of “Balkans” might acquire new significances, as a region of convergence of several EU peripheries (South-Eastern Europe, the South, Western Balkans).

 

Keywords: Balkans, crisis, modernity, constitutions, transition.

 

 

The unfolding political and financial crisis in Europe may be perceived as “a transition” with implications, paving the way from the European Social Model to a European Libertarian Model. On the one hand, signatory states to the Fiscal Compact, in effect since January 2013, are committed to constitutional austerity, which takes precedence over “national” social rights.[1] On the other hand, court rulings seem largely circumvented and, coextensively, social rights otherwise deemed inalienable by national constitutions are de-substantiated in Slovenia, Portugal, Greece and, once again, in Romania, especially in crucial fronts such as social insurance and collective bargaining.[2] This development may have a bearing on a broader theme, namely how grand socioeconomic teleological narratives affect constitutional blueprints in the European periphery and, particularly, in the Balkans. Addressing the theme of how grand modernist socioeconomic narratives gain hold over the normative/constitutional narrative in the region, via suitable “transitions”, this article explores the Balkan significance of European crises from 1945 to 2008.

In a chronological sequence, the major narratives domesticated in the Balkan constitutional narrative have been the following: the Marxist utopia promising “the end of exploitation of man by man”; the “European Social Model”, promising the end of politics and the ascendance of technocracy; the “End of History” utopia, promising the final and conclusive victory of liberal governance. We can observe that reform-driven or “transitional” periods of normative acculturation in socialism and democracy were articulated in comparable terms as “staircases to modernity”. This was evidenced in the fully perspective drive of constitutional reforms implemented in 1945 and 1989. However, there has never been an equivalent transitional narrative for the passage from the “European Social Model” to a post-welfare or libertarian model. In the light of this observation, this article adopts the hypothesis that the currently unfolding economic crisis triggers the emergence of a 1989 sequel or “liberalisation.2” narrative that may affect the normative and political landscape of “the Balkans” in the near future.

 

 1. A NOTE ON METHODOLOGY

 The term of “Balkans” is in itself passé. The prevailing geographical term is “South-Eastern Europe”, when referring to former communist EU member states, or “the Western Balkans”, when referring to aspirant EU member states in the region. The Balkans as such is the sum of these neologies plus Greece, which makes the term more adequate if the theme under discussion is the remodelling of the region through convergence – in normative and socioeconomic terms – of the European periphery. Normative discourse is about fundamental rules; modernist discourse is about fundamental principles for the organisation of society motivated by a single teleological vision of seemingly natural socioeconomic evolution. The two themes are evidently coextensive, as values and norms go hand in hand in the context of radical reformist political projects. Nonetheless, the regional grounding of such socioeconomic and normative transformations is a distinct theme that must be examined separately.

The recorded failures in certain regions or states to embrace a singular modernist narrative are often perceived as symptomatic of a cultural deficiency, if one refers to issues such as clientelism, lack of transparency, administrative neutrality, etc. Regions exhibiting such symptoms, as the Balkan Peninsula does, are often prescribed with reform packages meant to transform not merely their governance structures, but also their “political culture” as such. In this scheme, “reform-packages” are in effect designed to treat a condition of “historical legacies” as much as policy shortcomings.[3] In sum, through the paradigm of democratization studies but, arguably, also in the context of comparative communisms, we have studied Balkan “transitional experiences” as episodes in a greater narrative of institutional alignment, geared towards the modernisation of societies, for the people and, frequently, despite the people.

Focusing on “transition” it is customary for legal and political analysts to bundle together a number of diverse phenomena. Longing for clarity, this study has been designed with the assumption that the passage from one regime to another entails at least two distinct sets of transitions:

a) the negotiation of a rule by law agenda, which refers to the renegotiation of the polity’s ideational character from a plurinational state, such as Yugoslavia, to a nation-state;

b) the negotiation of a rule of law agenda, which refers to the polity’s political structure in terms of separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary and the like.

The notion of “rule by law” describes modern governance. A fundamental transition in this sense would entail a fundamental rupture on the very delineation and/or identity of the polity in question. For instance, a rule by law transitional dilemma is “what happens to the property, residence, and other inalienable rights of a Yugoslav citizen when there is no such a thing as Yugoslavia?” On the other hand, a rule of law agenda focuses more narrowly on themes of governance, such as checks and balances, individual and social rights; a question of this sort would be the proverbial qui custodiet ipsos custodies. This article focuses precisely on this latter rule of law agenda, abstaining from the favourite theme of inter-ethnic relations that has dominated academic attention in the region. The point of departure of this analysis is the post-1989 liberal narrative and its coextensive constitutional expression; this might be called “a thesis”. We then take a step back to examine the post 1945 socialist eschatological narrative and its coextensive normative roots, comparing the socialist and liberal notions of “formative transition”. Against this background, it is argued that the “European Social Model” was a synthetic narrative, devoid of eschatology, drawing on both socialist and liberal discursive traditions and, therefore, lacking a neatly defined notion of “transition”. In this scheme, “the lost transition” is a case of revisiting the 1989 liberal narrative with a more revolutionary thrust.

 

2. A THESIS: ONE END & ONE TRANSITION IN THE POST 1989 NARRATIVE

In legal theory, transition is seen as a process that presents technical challenges, defined as the time-bounded period in-between regimes where the polity has no evident legal foundation.[4] Seeking to conceptualise the dynamics of regime change is anything but unprecedented as indeed some authors claim direct intellectual heritage to none other than Machiavelli himself.[5] However, post-1989 transitology referred to the passage from dictatorship, autocracy, totalitarianism, or communism to democracy. In clustering these transitions under a unique heading, what emerged was a retrospectively evolutionary narrative, pronouncing liberal democracy as the “state of nature”[6] or, in rather apocalyptic terms, the “End of History”.[7] In fact, democratisation was likened to a [third] “wave”, or a tsunami-like natural force, erupting in Portugal in 1974, spreading swiftly across the shores of Southern Europe, proceeding to Latin America in the 1980s, until its latest third thrust overrun the Berlin Wall in 1989 to wash away communism.[8]

When focusing on “indigenous” post-communist societies, reformist prescriptions for reform were thus expressed in terms of a legalistic and “scientific” discourse, often drawing on similes such as the Tayloristic production line, or a progress race, with definite stages, inevitable laggards and frontrunners.[9] In this scheme, “constitutional engineering”[10] kept the policy production line in check, from the raw material of communism[11]/authoritarianism[12], through necessary milestones (conditionality), to the final destination of EU and NATO membership.[13] Thereby, the Balkans became a space of highly coordinated rule of law agendas where “transition” was not a time-bounded period between constitutional orders, but rather a long and open ended reformative route from the basic Copenhagen criteria (1993) to the full incorporation of EU’s acquis communautaire, that is, a body of legislation no smaller than 80.000 pages.

In terms of minimum democratic benchmarks, the domestication of this democratisation narrative was rather swift. Without exception, the post-1989 constitutional charters of Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania declared a commitment to parliamentary democracy[14], market capitalism[15], and a Madison-Montesquieu blueprint of balance of powers[16]. Nonetheless, the deepening of the process was directly related to the process of functional engagement with the EU and NATO. Of course, there have been frictions. For example, in Bulgaria the European Commission pressed for juridical independence vis-à-vis political authority and organized crime; reform prescriptions were fiercely contested by the Bulgarian Constitutional Court which, faced with the prospect of being singled out as responsible for Bulgaria’s failure to join the EU, time and again, submitted to the Commission’s demands. Similar pressure was exerted in Romania, meeting again the trench warfare resistance of the Constitutional Court which, once again, faced with EU’s threat to delay accession, reversed course.[17] In sum, the Europeanisation project had a largely overpowering effect over national constitutional discourse.

In this scheme, the case of Albania, which maintained an interim constitution from 1991 to 1998, is instructive. Clearly, the country was less responsive to European Commission demands, precisely because membership was not in sight. While article 45 of this transitional “basic law” did lay the ground for a pluralist democracy, formally invalidating the constitution of 1976, it took years before the country acquired a constitution validated directly by popular vote via a constituent assembly. During this period, the organisational structure of the judicial system was defined by Law 7561 (April 1992) on the Organisation of the Judiciary which, while providing for a new Constitutional Court, essentially bestowed control over the judiciary to the executive. This normative structure predictably precluded a democratic level-playing field. For instance, in promoting a new constitutional draft in 1994, the President at the time, Sali Berisha, would not take “no” for an answer. Failing to acquire consensus in parliament, he introduced the Law on Referendum, while the Socialist Party abstained from Parliament and the quorum required was not achieved. Expectedly, the Constitutional Court did not move against the President[18]. To this day, the impartiality of the Albanian Constitutional Court is questioned by the EU, while membership remains an elusive objective.

Overall, constitutional reforms in the Balkans have been largely shaped by the Europeanisation discourse, whether we speak of “candidates” or full EU member states. In this sense, it is fitting to note the paradigmatic affinities between Stalinist and liberal transitologies. Arguably, both discursive traditions were founded on naturalist determinism, prescribing an inevitably linear process of reform, suitably supervised by third party stakeholders. Since 1989, the probability or improbability of joining the EU has been an independent variable in shaping the pace of “revolutionary” constitutional reforms. By the same token, between the spring 1944 and autumn 1945, the presence of the Red Army or the lack thereof was regarded as the single independent variable for the evolution of Balkan polities.

 

3. ANTITHESIS: ANOTHER END, ANOTHER TRANSITION AND THE POST-1945 NARRATIVE

Indeed, as the Red Army marched through Europe, four distinct regime trajectories emerged: a) former member-states of the axis powers, where “transition to socialism” took place under direct military occupation, namely Bulgaria, East Germany, Hungary, and Romania; b) formerly occupied states, where transition was dictated by the fait accompli of the Red Army’s “liberating presence”, namely Poland and Czechoslovakia; c) regimes annexed by the USSR, namely Moldavia, Polish territories and the Baltic States; d) finally, regimes with a strong Partisan movement – Albania, Yugoslavia and Greece – where Moscow’s influence was of ideological rather than military significance. In this scheme, two questions remain open: a) what was the ideational structure of the socialist telos; b) how this teleology was “domesticated” in the normative landscape.

In chapter three of his thought-provoking book “Why Marx Was Right”, Terry Eagleton takes exception to the criticism that “Marxism is a form of determinism”.[19] Nonetheless, while attempting to salvage the notion of “agency” on behalf of Marxism, he does not dispute the notion that “existing socialist” regimes did embellish a linear and teleological view of history. Indeed, the emergence of classless society was regarded as inevitable, as much as liberal post-1989 narratives regarded liberal democracy as “the state of nature”. And socialist regimes sought to harness what they conceived to be “a natural force”, calling for a reform-driven shortcut to modernity, not unlike democratisation theorists.

Gilhot’s more trivial observation is that the term transition-as-consolidation employed by liberal transitologists is not only comparable to but in fact directly inherited from Marxist tradition. He traces the current use of the term of “transition” in the Stalinist discourse of the 1930s, arguing that modern advocates of liberal modernisation consider – as did Stalinist theorists – that “transition” is not the time bounded period between regimes, but a historical stage in its own right. Transition is then chiefly perceived as a collective “educational phase”, where society is supposed to assimilate and internalise new norms under the enlightened guidance of a scientifically informed avant garde, or technocrats.[20] In this sense, the very evocation of the term “transition” in the Balkans brings an uncomfortable feeling of déjà vu. Indeed, with the exception of Greece, Balkan polities in 1945 domesticated the teleology of Socialism in their normative discourse, although under a different context of “conditionalities”, that is, with or without the presence of troops.

For example, in the immediate aftermath of WWII, all constitutional preambles in the region or, alternatively, the first articles of each constitution revealed the establishment of “Peoples’ Democracies” as the result of popular uprisings against monarcho-fascist regimes.[21] A “People’s Democracy” was a term denoting in effect that the regime was making its “first step” towards the establishment of a Socialist Republic. During this “transition”, a “popular front” would be established amongst working class parties, gradually consolidating into a single working class monopoly, pushing through the “necessary reforms” for the emergence of a Socialist State. The “consolidation” of this latter “stage” of socialist development was claimed by these regimes in the early 1960s, when People’s Republics assumed the title of Socialist Republics. In this teleological scheme, Communism – i.e. Communist Republics – was an elusive utopia even for the USSR, since it implied nothing less than the “withering away of the state”, where constitutions as such would lose their significance.

In parallel, People’s democracies in the region underwent another form of “transition”. Up until the mid-1960s Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, and Yugoslavia were experiencing double-digit growth in both foreign exports and national income. Their rapid industrial expansion transformed their socioeconomic outlook and an increasing range of social services was on offer; simultaneously, an urban working class was being created virtually ex nihilo. Citizens of Socialist regimes in the Balkans were subsequently invested with substantial social rights, such as guaranteed employment, maternity leave, vacations, housing entitlement, healthcare, education, and the like.[22] In this sense, Socialism was the realm of social rights, creating a normative precedent that did affect Europe as a whole. The opportunity cost was individual rights. Indeed, the Soviet model called for the liquidation of the private economic sphere[23] by means of the so called “forced-draft” model.

The Soviet precedent was initially binding for Balkan polities in this respect but, ultimately, Yugoslavia deviated. Much like the USSR, in 1946 Yugoslavia did attempt collectivisation, which was predictably met by passive or active resistance. However, rather than choosing an open front battle between state, party and society, by 1952 the Yugoslavs abandoned collectivisation and, at times, there was ever property restoration. Instead, a model of voluntary participation in agricultural collectives was promoted, where members could offer both labour and land inputs.[24] This deviation also had an ideational dimension. Yugoslavia’s expulsion from the Kominform in June 28, 1948, revealed its defiance of Stalin’s hegemonic project and, coextensively, his interpretation of the socialist doctrine. Essentially, Yugoslav communists evoked many of Trosky’s arguments, being careful not to cite him directly: they accused the USSR of opportunistic bargaining with the West, of instituting unequal economic relations with other socialist states, of creating imperialistic spheres of influence, and of claiming nearly Papal infallibility.

Many of these criticisms were later on mainstreamed in Moscow with Khrushchev’s rise to power. Khrushchev believed in the need to build a Soviet bloc with an integrated division of labour, which is in Marxist terminology the main logic underpinning the establishment of the European Community. In harnessing such a Socialist Union, instead of a Marshall Plan, the USSR provided cheap primary products, trade credits, absorbed products of doubtful quality and, in effect, subsidised public consumption in order to legitimise weak, albeit politically loyal, communist party monopolies. But, already in the 1960s, the economic cost of political stability in socialist vassal states was gradually becoming dearer whilst Soviet GDP growth was declining.[25] Meanwhile, a number of Balkan regimes were less than impressed by Khrushchev’s rationale of interdependence. Yugoslavia carved its own course. Albania articulated a “self-reliance” position, breaking every economic tie with the USSR, holding onto the forced-draft model, reaching out to China for “structural funds”.[26] Gheorghiu-Dej also resisted de-Stalinisation, insisting on the development of heavy industry rather than pursuing complementarity within the Comecon framework.[27] In sum, in the Balkans, only Bulgaria joined “the Moscow consensus”. There was indeed a socialist acquis, but that was hardly of a communautaire type.

 

4. A TRANSITORY END: THE EUROPEAN SOCIAL MODEL

In 1960, long before the “end of history”, another American author had proclaimed the “end of ideology”. In his thesis – The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties –, Bell suggested that the grand narratives of modernity were exhausted. He was implicitly claiming that political discourse would be dominated by technocrats. Of course, much like Fukuyama, in proclaiming “the end” he was defending the status quo. And as anyone describing current affairs in terms of destiny, he did seem to have certain facts on his side.[28] Since 1942 the Beveridge Report of in Britain had identified five “Giant Evils” – squalor ignorance, want, idleness and disease – recommending a national, compulsory, flat rate insurance scheme which would combine health care, unemployment and retirement benefits. In 1945 the Labour Party government pledged to eradicate these evils and committed to guaranteeing a set of social rights “from the cradle to the grave”. In the US, Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s was followed by Kennedy’s New Frontier commitments (1960), precisely as Bell’s book was coming out. In Germany the social market economy model implemented by Adenauer (1949-1963) was blurring the dividing lines between social democracy and conservatism.

In sum, Bell was riding “a wave” of intellectual conventional wisdom. Bell’s thinking was in certain respects echoed in the rather techno-philosophical arguments of Rawls – “Theory of Justice” (1971) – where he was attempting to solve the problem of distributive justice by references to the modernist construct known as “the social contract”, essentially blurring the lines between socialist and liberal arguments of redistribution.[29] And Bell’s thinking was surely echoed in the famous phrase attributed to Milton Friedman in 1965, pronouncing “we are all Keynsians now”. In many respects, Bell spoke for his generation, that is, Americans who lived through the Depression of the 1930s, through US global status ascendance, committing in 1945 to address the interwar challenge of unequal development in Europe, thus making the world safer for democracy and capitalism.[30]

Not dwelling in the political and institutional dimension of this conventional wisdom, it is worth revisiting its ideational foundations. Libertarian individualism assumes that self-fulfilment is mainly derived from the struggle to achieve relative to other humans (competition); Marxist individualism assumed that self-fulfilment is directly related to the nature of relations with other humans (solidarity). In 1971, Ward’s major contribution was taking note of the fact that in institutional terms the debate was largely grounded on the conceptual arsenal of the former. Because Marx’s work focused mostly on the appraisal of the capitalist project, Ward argued, there were no institutional blueprints upon which socialism and bourgeois democracy could ground their utopian encounter. For this reason, most of the discussion gravitated around the liberal ideal of equilibrium, namely the moment where those participating in an economy – and coextensively a society – cannot improve their position legally or without coercion.[31]

In this scheme, the issue at hand is quite straightforward: to pave the path towards this modernist nirvana libertarians evoke the notion of Pareto’s optimality, which is in effect the rational account of market-magic, capturing the moment where, ceteris paribus, demand and supply combine in the context of a competitive price mechanism to reach the optimal allocation of resources. However, libertarians unfailingly imbue the price mechanism with a sense of moral significance: allocative efficiency emerges as the single most important collective value, defined as the distribution of wealth and power by following the principle of “marginal returns”, that is, each should get as much as initially invested. In this scheme, social stakeholders make individual sacrifices – measured in terms of land, labour, or capital – assume risks and should be rewarded proportionally rather than equally. If this means large scale social inequality, then so be it: money talks, merit walks.

On the other hand, the socialist critic, who was conceptually parasitic to the liberal corpus of economic discourse, suggested that the optimal allocation of resources in the market does not in-itself preclude the possibility of a more egalitarian distribution. DiQuattro notes that the socialist conceptual leap is to treat factors such as profit, rent, or interest as accounting indicators of Pareto’s efficiency, but not to imbue them with moral significance. Resources are logistically registered, but no single individual should appropriate these returns. A socialist advocates the principle of, ultimately, socially owned means of production, favouring an egalitarian principle of distribution of “logistical profits” through the provision of public or free goods.[32] This is not too far away from a similar line of argumentation by Rawls, who suggested that the optimal allocation should be based on the principle that inequality is acceptable only as far as an optimum guarantee of “equal opportunities” is not called into question.

To this day, reformist proposals spring from the consensus point of Pareto’s optimality, only to deviate on the ethical question of distribution.[33] Therefore, revisionist projects of one or another “teleology” – liberal or Marxist – usually begin with a commitment to a specific utopia – in liberal or socialist terms – whilst making an argument for a compromesso storico. Each polity then is subject to limitations posed by constrains of the past upon the present, forcing indigenous actors to seek locally functioning solutions even if they ascribe to universal projects.[34] Was this a discussion confined in the open spaces of Western academia? It is true that socialist regimes were in fact dominated by a nomenklatura with little room for individual defiance. The counterargument is that while not everyone was individually free, few were materially marginalised. Hence, socialist citizens were made beneficiaries of subsidised mass consumer goods, health care, child care, housing, subsidized vacations, and social security entitlements by virtue of their citizenship or their status as employees. Ceteris paribus, the provision of social rights precluded the possibility of individual marginalization; but of course it did not.

In 1959, Djilas touched upon a socialist taboo when he pointed out that alcoholism, crime, prostitution, drug abuse were problems kept off limits to academic inquiry in socialist regimes, precisely because such phenomena undermined their self-perception as harmonious egalitarian utopias.[35] And Djilas went further to suggest that centrally planned economies were but a form of bureaucratic state capitalism, where surplus value is appropriated not by private owners, but by a class of technocrats, which had the same effect of “alienation”, as indeed free market capitalism.[36] Incidentally, this was also to be the mantra of Euro-communism in the years to come, who sought to dissociate themselves from the legacy of actually existing communism. However, Yugoslavs neither feared nor shied away from comparisons with the West. In fact, Tito and Kardelj in the 1950s met European social democrats half-way by arguing that capitalism had indeed been weakened by its inherent contradictions, but not in the manner Marx foresaw it. “Pure” capitalism, they argued, was obliterated and Western regimes exhibited “not only socialist tendencies but also socialist forms”.[37] Self-management has often been dismissed as an ineffective mode of participatory democracy or, worse yet, a legitimacy-façade of the Yugoslav regime.

And yet the experiment itself deserves attention for, unlike forced-draft Stalinism, the Yugoslav consociational model addressed a foundational criticism to central-planning, namely the alienation of the individual from the decision making process. Specifically, in 1953 a number of amendments to the Yugoslav constitution empowered the workforce to participate in socioeconomic decision-making. The Yugoslav Federal Assembly became bicameral, representing both nationalities and corporate-productive classes, which bears some resemblance to the basic rationale underpinning the work of parliamentary committees in countries such as Germany and Italy. The question is whether this reformist discourse emerged in two parallel worlds, or whether this was somehow “a European” or global discourse. There is evidence to the latter.

Socioeconomic pluralism in Europe was substantial, while Rhine and Nordic capitalist models were as committed to full employment as any socialist regime. In academic circles, Gross would by the 1960s delineate the economist’s land-in-between polarities as a set of common questions, which led to a global interdisciplinary conference in Syracuse University (USA), focused on “central planning”. Note that the term “central planning” did not refer to the forced-draft model. Apparently, conventional wisdom at the time, from east to west, held that national governments across the world had assumed an important degree of responsibility for the guidance of economic activity with tremendous variation in policies: Yugoslavia could not be compared to the USSR just as much Dutch planning could not be compared to French, or Indian to Chinese. One of the keys to variation, Gross noted, was not only the shared burden of the less-than-developed nations to remould social structures – implicitly by emulating the developed bourgeois structure – but also to navigate between social systems that were increasingly interdependent.[38] Nonetheless, this “End of Ideology” discourse was rooted in experience of governance rather than ingrained in the self-perception of governments.

This was not a utopian or a teleological vision. The coexistence of socialist and liberal narratives was discussed amongst “sensible people” alluded by Bell, allowing for various synthetic possibilities rather than “an end”. How to avoid unequal development and ensure political stability was the question, not the legitimation of power per se. This thinking was perhaps theorised by Ralws and Djilas, but there were no ships, no troops, no flags, no anthems and no martyrs in this vision. Technocrats positioned themselves in a contextually sensitive vision of Pareto’s optimality to solve problems, as Christian and Social Democrats took turns in power in a less than emotionally thrilling political pendulum. Social and individual rights were seen as counterbalancing each other, finding their way on normative landscapes, albeit with different weight in different polities.

 

5. CONCLUSION: IS THIS THE LOST TRANSITION?

The aforementioned three teleological discourses in the Balkans have been accompanied by only two transitional discourses. The “End of History” requires democratic transition; the end of “the exploitation of man by man”, required socialization or collectivization. The process of internalising values and affecting institutional reforms was in this sense commonly perceived as a historical period in its own right, which we might call “a transition”. And if we are to take Gilhot’s position at phase value, these transitory discourses were in fact closely interrelated. So, the loose end in this scheme is the “end of ideology” discourse, which resisted the notion of a transition in either ideational or normative terms.

This hybrid “Social Model” appeared as a teleological discourse of an ever-transitory nature. Are we then in search of a lost transition? Ultimately, the significant question at hand is whether this question has any political relevance for the understanding of the evolution of Balkan polities today. To address this question we must once again return to the “end of history” democratisation narrative and, specifically, to the constitutional narrative in its realms. In doing so, we may observe that in mechanistically prescribing the “third wave” normative package, liberal theorists of the 1990s were well aware that they were fighting a two front reformist battle against both the – largely discredited – “end of exploitation of man by man” discourse and, simultaneously, the “end of ideology”. At that particular point in time, certain battles took precedence over others.

Libertarian constitutional orthodoxy advocated a clean break with the normative legacy of the “homo Sovieticus”. This catch-phrase was employed as an argument against social rights, linking the communist legacy of constitutionally guaranteed health, education, pension, or housing rights to a culture of docility – a Soviet breed of people – who placed their welfare in the hands of the state “from cradle to grave”. Of course, because of the “end of ideology” legacy, those theorists were forced to recognise that substantial rights were a distinctly European rather than merely a socialist constitutional tradition. But, the technical argument was that as socialist states were undergoing economic reform – at times referred to as “shock therapy” – positive rights would amount to unfulfilled promises. Thus theorists such as Sadurski argued that the non-justiciability of positive rights threatened to “infect” the moral status of constitutions as such. Alas, Sadurski also noted that dismantling positive rights was a rational but highly impracticable demand, not least because communist successor parties would resist it.[39]

Holding back the third wave thrust made liberal transition more palatable to key stakeholders in the negotiating process. Indeed, in making the case for the defence of positive rights, former communist parties did not emerge as champions of an ancien régime but, on the contrary, as defenders of a social-democratic and distinctly European tradition. It is telling for the nature of political discourse at the time that most of these parties re-named themselves social-democratic and then joined the Socialist International and the Party of European Socialists. Subsequently, these parties reaped the electoral benefits stemming from their self-pronouncement as defenders of a European rather than a communist legacy. In this scheme, irrespectively of whether positive rights are justiciable or not, it was clear they constituted a non-negotiable aspect of political culture across Europe. In this respect, this constitutional debate was central for the reinvention of former communists as social-democrats, allowing them to take ownership of the “Return to Europe” discourse, not to mention the implementation of “necessary” shock therapy programs.

There was a single and telling exception to the tribute paid to this European “substantive rights” tradition. That was Bosnia-Herzegovina. In that war tormented corner of the Balkans, what was at stake was the delineation of the polity as such and the constitution-making process was essentially taken over completely by foreign technocratic and “End-of-Ideology” inspired reformers. Specifically, the conclusion of the Dayton-Paris Agreements (1995), provided this former Socialist Republic with an annexed de facto constitution, whose authors were less than tactful; they introduced a constitution with the most limited substantive rights agenda in Europe, which of course in Sadusrki’s terms makes it the most American constitution in Europe.[40]

The lost transition might in this sense be considered looming for over two decades. It was all about complementing a democratic transition with a libertarian transition. In political terms, most states in post-communist Europe had to undergo a democratic and a libertarian transition simultaneously: the Balkans recovered from their initial 1989 “transitional slumps” to regain pre-1989 GDP levels in the 2000s, with the exception of Slovenia, which fared better (1998) and Moldavia that never recovered. Deacon noted that by 2000 a severe depression of public expenditure on welfare had been affected across Eastern Europe, including the complete or partial privatisation of many social services ranging from housing to education.[41] In 2008, the economic crisis emerged as an opportunity to revisit the issue of a “final break” with the European Social Model. Romania and Greece experienced a severe fiscal crisis of comparable magnitude to those experienced by Balkans states in 1989. Slovenia is said to be on the brink of a similar crisis. Therefore, the case for a more “realistic approach” to substantive rights and their non justiciability can be made.

Greece had not been considered in “transition” for at least three decades, having past most benchmarks of democratic consolidation not to mention being an emblematic “first waver”. And Slovenia was arguably the most successful post-communist reformer in the region – indeed, a model – being the first amongst post-communist polities to gain simultaneous membership of the EU, NATO, as well as the EMU. Nonetheless, the unfolding crisis since 2008 has proved that “transition” is a phase of internalising values and norms that can be revisited. As it happens, inadequate internalisation of norms and values allows for a penitentiary transition project. The difference is that these new revisionist demands are no longer grounded in a national framework.

From a constitutional perspective, it is already conventional wisdom that especially in the realms of the EU the constitutionalist’s object of study is no longer “domestic” in the Westphalian sense of the term.[42] Member states not only renegotiate their normative foundations on a multilateral level, but the evaluation of their normative alignment has taken the most rigid of forms, embodied in the all-mighty “Troika”, that is, representatives of the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank overseeing far reaching shock therapy reforms. This Troika has, at times, tested the limits of constitutional norms when prescribing measures to be taken. The trend is clear: the “Social Model” is collapsing. Interestingly enough in Greece, this has also signalled the end of the political pendulum between Social Democrats and Liberals, in consonance with the “end of ideology” thesis. Perhaps of equal significance is the fact that post-communist and post-dictatorship Mediterranean peripheries have converged politically and normatively, perhaps reviving a passé term in political geography, namely “the Balkans”.    

 

Bibliographical References

ABRAHAMS, Fred, Human Rights in Post-Communist Albania, Human Rights Watch (U.S.A.), 1995.

BACKER, Berit, “Self-Reliance under Socialism – the Case of Albania”, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 19, No. 4, 1982, pp. 355-367.

BELL, Daniel, The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties, Free Press, Glencoe, 1960.

BLOKKER, Paul, “Post-Communist Modernization, Transition Studies, and Diversity in Europe”, European Journal of Social Theory, Vol. 8, No. 4, 2005, pp. 503-525.

BUNCE, Valerie, “The Empire Strikes Back: The Evolution of the Eastern Bloc from a Soviet Asset to a Soviet Liability”, International Organization, Vol. 39, No. 1, Winter 1985, pp. 1-46.

CAMBELL, John, “State Building and Postcommunist Budget Deficits”, American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 38, No. 5, March/April 1995, pp. 760-787.

DEACON, Bob, “Eastern European Welfare States: the impact of the politics of globalization”, Journal of European Social Policy, Vol. 10, No. 2, 2000, pp. 146-161.

DIQUATRO, Arthur, “Alienation and Justice in the Market”, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 72, No. 3, September 1978, pp. 871-887.

EAGLETON, Terry, Why Marx Was Right, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2011.

ELKIN, Stephen, “Citizenship and Constitutionalism in post-Communist Regimes”, Political Science and Politics, Vol. 23, No. 2, January 1990, pp. 163-166.

ELSTER, Jeremy, “Constitutionalism in Eastern Europe: An Introduction”, The University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 58, No. 2, Spring 1991, pp. 447-482.

FISH, Stephen, Omar CHOUDHRY, “Democratization and Economic Liberalization in the Post-Communist World”, Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 40, No. 3, March 2007, pp. 254-282.

FUKUYAMA, Francis, The End of History and the Last Man, The Free Press, New York, 1992.

GILHOT, Nicholas, “The Transition to the Human World of Democracy: notes for a history of the concept of transition, from early Marxism to 1989”, European Journal of Social Theory, Vol. 5, No. 2, 2002, pp. 219-243.

GOLDSTEIN, Michael, “Privatization Success and Failure: Finance Theory and Regulation in the Transitional Economies of Albania and the Czech Republic”, Managerial and Decision Economics, Vol. 18, No. 7/8, November-December 1997, pp. 529-544.

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GROSS, Bill, “National Planning: Some Fundamental Questions”, American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 8, No. 7, 1964, pp. 7-13.

HANTINGTON, Samuel, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, Oklahoma University Press, Oklahoma, 1992.

KYMLICKA, Will, Contemporary Political Philosophy, Oxford University Press, New York, 1990.

MACRIDIS, Roy, “Stalinism and the Meaning of Titoism”, World Politics, Vol. 4, No. 2, January 1952, pp. 219-238.

NAHTIGAL, Matjaz, “The EU Fiscal Compact: Constitutionalization of Austerity and Preemption of Democracy in Europe”, Express, 2012, [http://works.bepress.com/matjaz_nahtigal/1].

NEAL, Fred, “Yugoslav Communist Theory”, American Slavic and Eastern European Review, Vol. 19, No. 1, February 1960, pp. 42-62.

NOUTCHEVA, Georgana, Dimitar BECHEV, “The Successful Laggards: Bulgaria and Romania’s Accession to the EU”, East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 22, No. 1, 2008, pp. 114-144.

PESTOFF, Victor, “Reforming Social Services in Central and Eastern Europe: Meso-Level Institutional Change after the Fall of Communism”, American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 38, No. 5, 1995, pp. 788-808.

POP-ELECHES, Grigore, “Between Historical Legacies and the Promise of Western Integration: Democratic Conditionality after Communism”, East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 21, No. 1, February 2007, pp. 142-161.

PRIBAN, Jiri, “Temporality, Civility, and Ethnicity in Post-Communist Constitution-Making”, Law and Society Review, Vol. 38, No. 3, 1994, pp. 407- 432.

RAWLS, Jeremy, Theory of Justice, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.

ROUBANIS, Ilia, Marilena KOPPA, “Dark Knights in the Balkans: for how long will the EU remain the only ‘game’ in town?”, Hellenic Studies, Vol. 18, No. 2, Autumn 2010, pp. 87-114.

SADURSKI, Wojciech, “Postcommunist Charters of Rights in Europe and the U.S. Bill of Rights”, Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 65, No. 2, Spring 2002, pp. 223-250.

SCHMITTER, Philippe, Terry KARL, “The Conceptual Travels of Transitologists and Consolidologists: How Far to the East Should They Attempt to Go?”, Slavic Review, Vol. 53, No. 1, Spring 1994, pp. 173-185.

SHIN, Doh Chull, “On the Third Wave of Democratization: A Synthesis and Evaluation of Recent Theory and Research”, World Politics, Vol. 47, No. 1, October 1994, pp. 135-170.

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TEITEL, Ruti, “Transitional Jurisprudence: The Role of Law in Political Transformation”, The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 106, No. 7, 1997, pp. 2009-2080.

TODOROVA, Maria, Imagining the Balkans, Oxford University Press, New York, 1997.

TRISKA, Jan, Constitutions of the Communist Party-States, Hoover Institution on War, Stanford, 1968.

VAROUFAKIS, Yiannis, The Global Minotaur, Zed Books, London, 2011.

WALKER, Neil, “The Idea of Constitutional Pluralism”, The Modern Law Review, Vol. 65, No. 3, 2002, pp. 317-359.

WARD, Benjamin, “Comparative Economic Systems: Changing Times – Changing Issues”, American Behavioural Scientist, Vol. 23, No. 3, 1980, pp. 393-414.

WAY, Lucan, Stephen LEVINSKY, “Linkage, Leverage, and the Post-communist Divide”, East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 21, No. 1, April 2002, pp. 48-66.

WHITE, Stephen, Judy BATT, Paul LEWIS, Developments in East and Central European Politics, Duke University Press, Durham, 1997.

 

Web-Based Sources

Albanian Constitutional Documents, [http://kushtetuta.independentkosova.com] (retrieved July 2008).

Deyton Peace Agreement (1995), Annex 4: Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, University of Minnesota Human Rights Library, [http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/icty/dayton/daytonannex4.html] (retrieved April 2008).

Charlemagne, “Austerity Plans Overturned”, Economist, April 9, 2013, [http://www.economist.com/blogs/charlemagne/2013/04/portugals-bailout].

International Commission of Jurists, [http://www.icj.org] (retrieved April 2008).

Legislation On-Line, [http://www.legislationline.org], (retrieved July 2008).

The Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Albania, [http://bjoerna.dk/dokumentation/Albanian-Constitution-1976.html], (retrieved April 2008).

The Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria (2006), [http://www.parliament.bg/?page=const&lng=en], (retrieved April 2008).

The Constitution of the Republic of Croatia (1990), [http://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/hr01000_.html], (retrieved April 2008).

The Constitution of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1992), [http://www.constitution.org/cons/macedoni.txt], (retrieved April 2008).

The Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo, [http://www.kushtetutakosoves.info/repository/docs/Constitution.of.the.Republic.of.Kosovo.pdf], (retrieved April 2008).

The Constitution of the Republic of Montenegro, [http://www.legislationline.org/upload/legislations/01/9c/b4b8702679c8b42794267c691488.htm], (retrieved April 2008).

The Constitution of the Republic of Romania (1991), [http://www.cdep.ro/pdfs/constitutie_en.pdf], (retrieved April 2008).

The Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, [http://www.srbija.sr.gov.yu/cinjenice_o_srbiji/ustav.php?change_lang=en], (retrieved April 2008).


 



[1] Matjaz NAHTIGAL, “The EU Fiscal Compact: Constitutionalisation of Austerity and Preemption of Democracy in Europe”, Express, 2012, [http://works.bepress.com/matjaz_nahtigal/1].

[2] See for example: Charlemagne, “Austerity Plans Overturned”, Economist, April 9, 2013, [http://www.economist.com/blogs/charlemagne/2013/04/portugals-bailout].

[3] Maria TODOROVA, Imagining the Balkans, Oxford University Press, New York, 1997.

[4] Teitel RUTI, “Transitional Jurisprudence: The Role of Law in Political Transformation”, The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 106, No. 7, 1997, pp. 2057, 2069-2070.

[5] Philippe SCHMITTER, Karl TERY, “The Conceptual Travels of Transitologists and Consolidologists: How Far to the East Should They Attempt to Go?”, Slavic Review, Vol. 53, No. 1, Spring 1994, pp. 173-174.

[6] Stephen ELKIN, “Citizenship and Constitutionalism in Post-Communist Regimes”, Political Science and Politics, Vol. 23, No. 2, January 1990, p. 448.

[7] Francis FUKUYAMA, The End of History and the Last Man, The Free Press, New York, 1992.

[8] Samuel HANTINGTON, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, Oklahoma University Press, Oklahoma, 1992.

[9] Jiří J. PŘIBÁŇ, “Temporality, Civility, and Ethnicity in Post-Communist Constitution-Making”, Law and Society Review, Vol. 38, No. 3, 1994, pp. 409-410; Gergana NOUTCHEVA, Dimitar BECHEV, “The Successful Laggards: Bulgaria and Romania’s Accession to the EU”, East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 22, No. 1, 2008; Doh Chull SHIN, “On the Third Wave of Democratization: A Synthesis and Evaluation of Recent Theory and Research”, World Politics, Vol. 47, No. 1, October 1994, pp. 138, 143; Lucan WAY, Stephen LEVINSKY, “Linkage, Leverage, and the Post-communist Divide”, East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 21, No. 1, April 2002.

[10] Stephen WHITE, Judy BATT, Paul LEWIS, Developments in East and Central European Politics, Duke University Press, Durham, 1997, pp. 190-210.

[11] Levent GÖNENC, Prospects for Constitutionalism in Post-Communist Countries, Kluwer Law International, The Hague, 2002; Wojciech SADURSKI, “Postcommunist Charters of Rights in Europe and the U.S. Bill of Rights”, Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 65, No. 2, Spring 2002.

[12] Jeremy ELSTER, “Constitutionalism in Eastern Europe: An Introduction”, The University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 58, No. 2, Spring 1991, p. 448.

[13] Ilia ROUBANIS, Marilena KOPPA, “Dark Knights in the Balkans: for how long will the EU remain the only ‘game’ in town?”, Hellenic Studies, Vol. 18, No. 2, Autumn 2010; Stephen FISH, Omar CHOUDHRY, “Democratization and Economic Liberalization in the Post-Communist World”, Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 40, No. 3, March 2007; Grigore POP-ELECHES, “Between Historical Legacies and the Promise of Western integration: Democratic Conditionality after Communism”, East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 21, No. 1, February 2007.

[14] Bulgaria 1991: Preamble, Chapter 1: Art. 4; Albania 1991: Art. 2, 3, 4, 5; Romania 1991: Title I.: 1.3, 8.1.

[15] Albania 1991: Chapter 1: Art. 10; Bulgaria 1991: Chapter 1: Art. 19.1; Romania 1991: 6(h), 8.

[16] Albania 1991: Chapter1, Art. 3; Bulgaria 1991: Chapter 1: Art. 8, Romania, Art. 4, 6.b-c .

[17] Georgana NOUTCHEVA, Dimitar BECHEV, “The Successful Laggards: Bulgaria and Romania’s Accession to the EU… cit.”.

[18] Fred ABRAHAMS, Human Rights in Post-Communist Albania, Human Rights Watch (U.S.A.), 1995, pp. 15-16.

[19] Terry EAGLETON, Why Marx Was Right, Yale University Press, New Haven, C.T., 2011, pp. 30-63.

[20] Nicholas GILHOT, “The Transition to the Human World of Democracy: notes for a history of the concept of transition, from early Marxism to 1989”, European Journal of Social Theory, Vol. 5, No. 2, 2002, pp. 222, 225, 229-230.

[21] See: Jan TRISKA, Constitutions of the Communist Party-States, Hoover Institution on War, Stanford, 1968, pp. 124, 150, 152, 350, 454-456; Albania (1946, Art. II), Bulgaria (1947, Art. 1), Romania (1948, Art. I), Yugoslavia (1946, Preamble).

[22] Fatos TARIFA, “The Quest for Legitimacy and the Withering Away of Utopia,” Social Forces, Vol. 76, No. 2, 1997, pp. 441-442, 444, 450, 454-457.

[23] Berit BACKER, “Self-Reliance under Socialism – the Case of Albania”, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 19, No. 4, 1982, p. 365.

[24] Fred SINGLETON, A Short History of the Yugoslav Peoples, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1989, pp. 216-218, 224-226.

[25] Valerie BUNCE, “The Empire Strikes Back: The Evolution of the Eastern Bloc from a Soviet Asset to a Soviet Liability”, International Organization, Vol. 39, No. 1, Winter 1985.

[26] Berit BACKER, “Self-Reliance under Socialism – the Case of Albania…cit.”.

[27] John CAMPBELL, “State Building and Postcommunist Budget Deficits”, American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 38, No. 5, March/April 1995, p. 767.

[28] Daniel BELL, The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties, Free Press, Glencoe, 1960.

[29] Jeremy RAWLS, Theory of Justice, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971; Will KYMLICKA, Contemporary Political Philosophy, Oxford University Press, New York, 1990.

[30] Yannis VAROUFAKIS, The Global Minotaur, Zed Books, London, 2011.

[31] Benjamin WARD, “Comparative Economic Systems: Changing Times – Changing Issues”, American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 23, No. 3, 1980, pp. 395-397.

[32] Arthur DIQUATTRO, “Alienation and Justice in the Market,The American Political Science Review, Vol. 72, No. 3, September 1978.

[33] Michael GOLDSTEIN, “Privatization Success and Failure: Finance Theory and Regulation in the Transitional Economies of Albania and the Czech Republic”, Managerial and Decision Economics, Vol. 18, No. 7/8, November-December 1997, pp. 530-531.

[34] Paul BLOKKER, “Post-Communist Modernization, Transition Studies, and Diversity in Europe”, European Journal of Social Theory, Vol. 8, No. 4, 2005, pp. 512-513; John CAMPBELL, “State Building and Postcommunist Budget Deficits… cit.”, pp.762-763.

[35] Victor PESTOFF, “Reforming Social Services in Central and Eastern Europe: Meso-Level Institutional Change after the Fall of Communism”, American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 38, No. 5, 1995, p. 788.

[36] Fred NEAL, “Yugoslav Communist Theory”, American Slavic and Eastern European Review, Vol. 19, No. 1, February 1960, p. 54.

[37] Ibidem, p. 45; Roy MACRIDIS, “Stalinism and the Meaning of Titoism”, World Politics, Vol. 4, No. 2, January 1952, pp. 227, 232-236.

[38] Bill GROSS, “National Planning: Some Fundamental Questions”, American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 8, No. 7, 1964, p. 13.

[39] Wojciech SADURSKI, “Postcommunist Charters of Rights in Europe and the U.S. Bill of Rights…cit.”, p. 223.

[40] Ibidem, p. 233.

[41] Bob DEACON, “Eastern European Welfare States: the impact of the politics of globalization”, Journal of European Social Policy, Vol. 10, No. 2, 2000.

[42] Neil WALKER, “The Idea of Constitutional Pluralism”, The Modern Law Review, Vol. 65, No. 3, 2002, p. 322.