Twenty years after the collapse of communism, the societies of Eastern Europe continue to provide an extraordinary opportunity to study the interaction of political, economic, and social change.
Political Holes in the Economy: The Business Network of Partisan Firms in Hungary
When firms reach out to allies in the political field, the logic of partisanship can constrain the choice of business partners in the economy. Balazs Vedres and I interviewed CEOs and politicians in Hungary and constructed a dataset of all senior managers and boards of directors of the largest 1,696 corporations and the complete set of all political officeholders. Firms of either left or right political affiliation exhibit a preference for partnerships with firms in the same political camp while avoiding ties with firms in the opposite camp. Subsequently, firms with politically balanced boards seize a brokerage opportunity to occupy the political holes in the economy opened up by the growing division between left and right.
American Sociological Review, October 2012, 77(5):700-722.
Opportunities of Constraints: A Sociologist’s Reflections on Janos Kornai’s By Force of Thought
This essay reviews the intellectual memoir by János Kornai, the leading economist working under the constraints of politicized academic life in the former Sovietbloc. Kornai retells the major ideas of his work through the lens of the various periods in his life and the ethical dilemmas faced in each. Constraints, it is shown, provided opportunities. Kornai’s work offers a model of a public intellectual, committed to empirical analysis of social processes, and independent from political parties and from intellectual camps in the economics profession.
Theory and Society October 2007 36(5):469-476.
Social Times of Network Spaces: Network Sequences and Foreign Investment in Hungary
In this paper, Balazs Vedres and I develop a social sequence analysis to identify distinctive pathways whereby firms use network resources to buffer uncertainty, hide or restructure assets, or gain knowledge and legitimacy. In place of properties of the global network, we focus on variation in local properties. In place of a single system time, we model the processes of social times. Our contribution to a more historical network analysis does not simply include time as a variable but, instead, recognizes time as variable.
American Journal of Sociology, March 2006, 111(5):1367-1411.
Is there a distinctly East European capitalism? This volume analyzes democratization and economic change in the postsocialist societies of East Central Europe. It demonstrates that the collapse of communism was not the same across the region and that the differences in how the pieces fell shaped the building blocks used for reconstructing political systems and restructuring economies in the region. Among the key concepts are the importance of social networks in the economies and of deliberative institutions in the polity that include the interests of subordinate groups in policymaking.
Restructuring Networks in Post-Socialism
This book is about change in Central and Eastern Europe, and about how we think about social and economic change more generally. In contrast to the dominant ‘transition framework’ that examines organizational forms in Eastern Europe according to the degree to which they conform to, or depart from, the blueprints of already existing capitalist systems, this book examines the innovative character, born of necessity, in which actors in the post-socialist setting are restructuring organizations and institutions by redefining and recombining resources. Instead of thinking of these recombinations as accidental aberrations, the book explores their evolutionary potentials.
Recombinant Property in East European Capitalism
Some years ago, when they were little kids, my children invented a hybrid game. Having left the houses and hotels of their Monopoly set at a friend’s house, they started to use Lego building blocks (much preferred to the Monopoly pieces even after returned) to construct ever more elaborate structures in a game whose rules evolved away from bankrupting one’s opponents and toward attracting customers to the plastic skyscrapers that towered over the Monopoly plain. This strikes me as a good metaphor for innovation and the process of social change. East European capitalism was not built on the ruins of communism but with the ruins of communism.
American Journal of Sociology January 1996, 101(4):993-1027
Rooted Transnational Publics: Integrating Foreign Ties and Civic Activism
In the literature on globalization there is a widespread belief that civic associations with transnational ties are uprooted from their domestic societies. Laszlo Bruszt, Balazs Vedres, and I contend that there is not a forced choice between foreign ties and domestic integration. In fact, we find that transnational organizations are more domestically integrated than those without such ties. We base our argument on a survey of 1,002 of the largest civic organizations which we conducted in Hungary. We specify several forms of domestic integration and several forms of transnational ties. By demonstrating a systematic relationship between the patterns of foreign ties and the patterns of domestic integration, we chart three emerging forms of transnational publics.
Theory and Society 2006 35(3):323-349.
One Way or Multiple Paths? For a Comparative Sociology of East European Capitalism
This essay, written with my frequent co-author, Laszlo Bruszt, was published in The American Journal of Sociology (January 2001) as part of a very lively debate with Michael Burawoy.
American Journal of Sociology, January 2001, 106(4):1129-1137.