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Yugoslav Republic. The second group consists of

the fifteen successor states to Soviet republics: the

Russian Federation, plus Ukraine, Belarus, and

other members of the Commonwealth of Independent

States (CIS), with Lithuania, Latvia, and

Estonia (the Baltic states) remaining outside the


After World War II all these countries became

part of the Soviet Empire, and were ruled or dominated

by the largest and most powerful country

of the region. The republics of the Soviet Union

constituted an internal empire, over which Russia

exercised direct rule, whereas the countries of

eastern Europe constituted an external empire,

whose countries had limited sovereignty and imposed

regimes patterned on that of the Soviet

Union (they were satellite countries). The chief

commonalities of these regimes were the oneparty

state and monocentric authority in the

area of politics, and central planning and state

ownership in the area of the economy. These features

were combined with a controlled official

culture (marked by extensive censorship), and the

suppression and limitation of civil society. Apart

from these principal similarities, there was great

diversity in their concrete implementation. In the

Soviet Union itself there were temporal differences

in the repressiveness of the regime, ranging

from the dictatorial Stalinist period on one hand,

to a relatively liberalized system under Mikhail

Gorbachev (1931– ). Among “satellite” countries

Yugoslavia under Tito (Joseph Broz) (1892–1980)

was the first to obtain political sovereignty, and

approximate a market economy, but it retained

strong ideological control. From the middle 1950s

Poland under Wladyslaw Gomulka (1905–82)

and Hungary under Janos Kadar (1912–89) became

exceptional in allowing the rudiments of an economic

market and entrepreneurship, as well as

some liberalization of politics, for example the

unique phenomenon of the Polish Catholic

Church possessing considerable autonomy, or

postcommunist societies postcommunist societies


the emergence of organized democratic opposition

in Poland and Czechoslovakia as early as

the 1970s. Romania under Nicolae Ceaucescu

(1918–89) was able to conduct relatively independent

foreign policy, otherwise sticking to communist

orthodoxy. At the other extreme, tight political

and ideological control and direct Soviet influence

were characteristic of the GDR (East Germany –

the frontier country against the West), Albania,

Bulgaria, and – after 1968 – Czechoslovakia.

The breakdown of the communist empire

started from eastern Europe, with the revolutions

of 1989 typically originating from below and mobilizing

pro-democratic and opposition movements

(Poland’s Solidarity movement being the

biggest and most powerful). The concrete processes

of extrication from the communist regime differed

markedly: for example in Poland and Hungary it

was by means of round-table talks and the peaceful,

gradual exit from power by communist elites;

in Czechoslovakia, by means of a bloodless “velvet

revolution” in the streets; in Romania, by means

of the bloody uprising against the communist

dictatorship; in the GDR by direct incorporation

into the political and economic system of West

Germany, through the process of unification. The

disbanding of the Soviet Union itself followed

soon after, in 1991, as the result of a process

initiated from above, by Gorbachev’s reforms of

glasnost and perestroika, and carried further in the

direction of democracy and capitalism under the

leadership of President Boris Yeltsin (1931– ).

Calling the societies which emerged in these

processes “postcommunist” draws attention to

their continuing dependence on the communist

past and their incomplete reshaping into the western

model. The legacies of Communism are to be

felt in four areas. In the political domain, there

are deficiencies in the operation of the democratic

system, which are most pronounced in the countries

devoid of earlier democratic traditions (for

example in Russia, some post-Soviet republics,

Bulgaria, and Albania), and relatively smaller in

the countries which had experienced periods of

democratic rule in their earlier history (for instance

Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic).

But everywhere one observes: incompetent, illprepared,

often corrupt, and nepotistic political

elites, chaotic and amorphous party systems, lack

of an independent apolitical civil service, weak

rule of law, continued influence of former communists

able to convert their earlier political

capital into personal enrichment (“new nomenklatura”

or “oligarchs”). In the economic domain

the consolidation of the market has been favored

by the existence of earlier capitalist traditions

(as present, for example, in the Czech Republic),

as well as where the initial economic reform was

of the radical, “shock therapy” variety, while gradual

or evolutionary steps have proven less effective.

But everywhere it was slowed down by the

continuing presence of inefficient large state

sectors, resistance to privatization, an overgrown

agricultural sector, as well as unresolved issues of

restitution of private property nationalized under

the communist regime. In the cultural area, the

readiness to embrace the western way of life

depends on the strength of earlier pro-western

orientations (higher, for example, in the countries

existing formerly in the orbit of the Habsburg

Empire, with a dominant Catholicism, than in

those which were in the orbit of the Ottoman

Empire and the Orthodox Church). But everywhere

there are mental and value deficiencies

covered by the concept of civilizational incompetence:

in particular, attitudes not adapted to

the new conditions of democracy and capitalism,

such as collectivism, egalitarianism, avoidance of

responsibility, aversion to risk, claims to social

security and welfare directed towards the state,

system-blame for personal failures, and indifference

to the public good. In the area of civil society,

its suppression under Communism, and the flight

of citizens to the private sphere of the family,

friends, and “connections,” results in the persistent

opposition between “us” and “them” and a

reluctance to engage in public participation and

in voluntary associational activism.

Nevertheless the process of development and

consolidation of democracy, capitalism, and free

culture proceeds consistently, and has already led

to the rebuilding of key institutional structures,

to new cultural and mental orientations and to

changes in the everyday life of postcommunist

societies. A significant role has been played in

this process of shedding of the legacies of the

communist past by the incorporation of leading

countries of the region into supranational economic

and political organizations of the western

world: the Organization for Economic Cooperation

and Development (OECD), the World Bank,

and most significantly NATO (with Poland, Hungary,

and the Czech Republic joining first, in 1999,

and Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania,

Slovakia, and Slovenia invited in 2004), and the

European Union (with the accession of Poland,

Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia,

Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia in 2004).

In sociology the complex social changes occurring

in postcommunist societies have become the

postcommunist societies postcommunist societies


subject of various theoretical accounts. They

describe the process under the headings of transition,

transformation, modernization, and traumatic

sequence. The idea of transition assumes

that we witness the simple replacement of one

regime by another, and that by imitating western

institutions the postcommunist societies will

quickly reshape themselves in the likeness of

leading societies of the West (namely the United

States and western Europe, and westernized countries

such as Japan, and so forth). The idea of

transformation sees the process as a more complex,

path-dependent, and open-ended construction

of a new form of society, partly patterned

on the West, but also revealing specific historical

experiences within the region. The idea of modernization

focuses on the continuation and extension

of the incomplete, “fake modernization”

under Communism – limited to industrialization,

urbanization, and educational emancipation –

into the political and cultural domain, as well as

on the reemergence of civil society. The idea of

traumatic sequence emphasizes the negative, unintended

side-effects of the process: a certain disorientation

and anomie in the domain of values,

adverse effects of reforms (for example unemployment,

raised levels of crime, and impoverishment

of considerable segments of the population), and

the resulting post-traumatic moods of the people

(distrust, apathy, and nostalgia for the past). The

key process is conceived as a long-term effort to

cope with such traumas, by mobilizing entrepreneurial

energies, educational aspirations, and citizens’

activism. And the fulfillment of the ultimate

promise of success is entrusted to the turnover of

generations, where young people are already

immune from communist legacies.



This has two meanings. First, it is used as a comment

on what some writers see as the disappearance

of feminism in the West, and, second, it can

be used as a description of societies that have

changed various social practices as a result of

what is known as the “second wave” of feminism

in the 1970s. In the first case, the term postfeminism

can be interpreted as a fervent hope by some

critics of feminism that this social movement,

which they find to be profoundly disturbing, has

lost its impact and support and that feminism no

longer exists as a viable movement. Right-wing

critics of feminism have been quick to assume,

report, and state the “death” of feminism

while hailing a return to the halcyon days of

more traditional relationships of gender. The evidence

of the demise of feminism is usually anecdotal

information about women choosing to

become full-time mothers; other arguments (for

example, that the current arrangements of the

labor market are rarely supportive of parents)

are seldom part of the same discussion. Tabloid

newspapers throughout the West have played a

considerable part in the popularization of the

idea that feminism is dead and that it was only

ever a minority social movement, associated with

lesbian sexuality.

The second use of the term postfeminism recognizes

the impact of feminism on the social world

(for example, the calculation of unpaid work in

the household as part of the Gross National Product,

the greater equalization of the law in relation

to women and men), but tacitly assumes that the

work of feminism has been done. A “postfeminist”

society is thus one that has put into place equal

rights legislation, recognized disparities in social

power between women and men, and questioned

practices that were related to the social inferiority

of women. For many feminists, the term postfeminism

has been created out of the backlash

against feminism from the political right and the

rise, most significantly in the United States, of a

religious right which has increasingly challenged

the liberalization of laws relating to reproduction

that were achieved by feminists in the 1970s.

Postfeminism can thus be read as a construct of

those social groups that were always opposed to

feminism. MARY EVANS


A theorem associated with postmodernism and

notions of the end of history, posthistoire refers to

the analysis of the social beyond the horizon of

the Enlightenment self-understanding of modernity.

The term was first made popular by Lutz

Niethammer in his Posthistoire Has History Come to

an End? (1989 [trans. 1992]). Often interpreted as

spelling the collapse of modernity, its analysis

has played a central role in sociological debates

about the exhaustion of ideas stemming from the

European Enlightenment.

Posthistoire has taken two key sociological forms.

Arnold Gehlen argued that, in an age of intensive

modernization, there is an uncoupling of rationality

on the one side and the cultural self-understanding

of modernity on the other. For Gehlen,

posthistoire means the guiding assumptions of

the Enlightenment are dead; only their consequences

live on, and unpredictably so. From

this perspective, processes of modernization have

postfeminism posthistoire


become unhinged from any internal connection

with the conceptual horizons of western rationalism

in which the project of modernity was


The idea of posthistoire also arises in sociology as

a result of the postmodern turn, but in this reading

it is both society and culture that are deconstructed.

In postmodern sociology, the end of

cultural modernity spells a similar eclipse of advanced

modernization. In posthistoire, society is directionless,

producing itself only in the fleeting

transparency of pluralistic discourses.



Associated with postmodernism and poststructuralism,

posthumanism is a form of postmodern

philosophy predicated on the notion that the

human species is self-limiting. Posthumanists

seek to promote a radical political agenda, pushing

beyond the ideas and images from the European

Enlightenment on the “natural” constraints

of the body and towards alternative utopias promoting

artificial intelligence, nanotechnology,

cyber technologies, and biomachines. In this sociology

beyond humanism, in which society is said to

have entered a post-Darwinian era, the political

aim is to eradicate distinctions between humans

and machines.

The historical emergence of posthumanism is

closely connected with the philosophy of Friedrich

Nietzsche (1844–1900) and his unearthing of an

imminent process of continual self-overcoming,

such that an erasure of the “subject of man” was

the theoretical premise from which the Overman

(Ubermensch) might be conceptualized. Yet whereas

Nietzsche’s analysis of evolution – human and

nonhuman – was concerned with the spontaneous

growth of productive desire, posthumanists

focus on the mutations of machine intensities,

biomachine becomings, bodily transpositions.

Specifically in terms of sociological analysis, there

is an emphasis on radicalizing human forms

through the use of technological and other means.

Developments in artificial life, particularly neural

networks and biomorphs, promise a nonlinear

conceptualization of evolutionary life; so, too,

computer models and digital technologies offer

a revaluation of the fundamental sociological

concepts through which self-organization and

sociality are constituted.

These arguments advanced by posthumanists

suggest that sociology needs to embrace interdisciplinarity

in order to engage critically the dynamism

of configurations of nature, sociality, and

technology. In Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention

of Nature (1991), Donna J. Haraway noted

that human and nonhuman “actants” are mixed

in “material–semiotic entities”; these are biotech

knowledge objects, such as the database, the chip,

the neural net, the ecosystem. Haraway suggests

that, from this perspective, complex socialities can

be analyzed otherwise, from the micro-physical to

the macro-physical.

A persistent theme in posthumanism is that

social memories and socialities are multiple.

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari argue in A Thousand

Plateaus (1980 [trans. 1987]) in favor of molecular

memories, of open, complex systems,

where mutant “lines of flight” initiate forms of

becoming that call into play novel forms of communication

between heterogeneous phenomena.

Refiguring established epistemologies and ontologies

in terms of the posthuman, some argue –

like Hans Moravec in Robot. Mere Machine to Transcendent

Mind (1998) – that biotechnologies can

expand human horizons indefinitely, refiguring

our understanding of speed, vision, strength, and

intelligence. However, there are other posthumanists

who caution against the more extreme

flights of utopian vision concerning the transhuman

condition. Keith Ansell Pearson argues in

Viroid Life (1997) against the biotechnological

vitalism of cybergurus. While the posthuman condition

involves sociology in thinking beyond the

“beyond,” as Pearson argues, the intellectual task

concerns, above all, mapping creative intelligences

and productive becomings. ANTHONY ELL IOTT

postindustrial society

This argument is that, following a period of

almost two centuries of industrialization, some

societies of the advanced industrial world have

undergone further changes which require that

we now speak of “postindustrial societies.” The

most important exponent of this view is the

American sociologist Daniel Bell, though it has

also been echoed by several European sociologists

such as Alain Touraine. According to these

thinkers, postindustrial societies are characterized

by the following features: economically, a

move from a goods-producing to a service economy;

occupationally, the decline of the manual

working class and the rise of a professional, managerial,

and technical class; culturally, the growing

importance of universities and other research

institutions, to some extent replacing the business

enterprise as the source of innovation and growth;

in politics and decision- making, the creation of a

posthumanism postindustrial society


new “intellectual technology” involving computer-

simulations, game theory, scientific forecasting,

and other types of theoretical systems

that increasingly displace the deliberations of

“amateur” politicians. Overarching all this, what

Bells calls the “axial principle” of the new society,

is “the centrality of theoretical knowledge” as the

source of innovation and policy formation for society

as a whole. In later writings, moved by the

rapid developments in computers and communications

technology, and the links between them,

Bell has increasingly come to see postindustrial

societies as information societies. Others, such as

Peter Drucker (1909–2005), for similar reasons

have spoken of “the knowledge society,” for

example in his Post-capitalist Society (1993), while

Zbigniew Brzezinski (1929– ) writes of “the technetronic

society” in his Between Two Ages (1970). In all

these accounts, central features are the emergence

of a new type of worker, the “knowledge worker,”

the significance to the economy and society as a

whole of the new information technology, and the

increasing proportion of Gross National Product

that is devoted to research and development.

The United States, western Europe, and Japan

are the countries that by common consent have

advanced farthest in the direction of postindustrialism.

But east European theorists, putting a

Marxist slant on it, have also hailed the advent

of the “scientific–technological revolution” in

their region, incorporating many of the central

changes identified by Bell and others. It is seen

as heralding a new mode of production in industrial

societies, whether socialist or capitalist. Certainly

there is no doubt that the majority of

workers – somewhere between two-thirds and

three-quarters in most cases – in all industrial

societies are now service workers; nor that between

30 and 50 percent of the tertiary education

age cohort now goes on to some form of higher

education. At this most basic level no-one can deny

that there have been fundamental changes in industrial

society, leading, for instance, to a significant

decline in the power of trade unions and

forcing traditional socialist parties to modify their

programs away from an exclusive focus on the

proletariat. Many of these changes have been discussed

under the heading of embourgeoisement .

The question is whether these changes add up,

as Bell and others claim, to a new principle of

society. Here there can be serious doubts. The

driving forces of the postindustrial society appear

to be much as they were in industrial society:

capital accumulation, technical innovation, and

rationalization. Neither Karl Marx nor Max Weber

would have been much surprised at the new developments,

which were indeed implicit in their

theories of industrial society. KRI SHAN KUMAR

postmodern theory

As the very prefix post- indicates, postmodern

theory reflects uncertainty as to the direction of

change and critical skepticism about the grand

narratives of modernization, including ideological

constructs of socialism, liberalism, conservatism,

and welfarism. The term refers both to a postmodern

theorizing, that is a specific form of analysis

and explanation of contemporary society, and to

the theoretical accounts of postmodern understood

as either a new socio-cultural configuration

(postmodernity) or a new trend in social change

(postmodernization). The former usage (postmodern

theorizing) has been associated with such

thinkers as Michel Foucault and Jean-Franc¸ois Lyotard

who analyze the discursive and narrative

foundations of knowledge (language games). This

predisposes them towards cultural criticism and

philosophical reflections that engender postmodern

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