Divide and Pacify

Strategic Social Policies and Political Protests in Post-Communist Democracies
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190 pages

Despite dramatic increases in poverty, unemployment, and social inequalities, the Central and Eastern European transitions from communism to market democracy in the 1990s have been remarkably peaceful. This book proposes a new explanation for this unexpected political quiescence. It shows how reforming governments in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have been able to prevent massive waves of strikes and protests by the strategic use of welfare state programs such as pensions and unemployment benefits. Divide and Pacify explains how social policies were used to prevent massive job losses with softening labor market policies, or to split up highly aggrieved groups of workers in precarious jobs by sending some of them onto unemployment benefits and many others onto early retirement and disability pensions. From a narrow economic viewpoint, these policies often appeared to be immensely costly or irresponsibly populist. Yet a more inclusive social-scientific perspective can shed new light on these seemingly irrational policies by pointing to deeper political motives and wider sociological consequences.

This book has been nominated for the American Sociological Association's Award for Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship 2006, Section on Political Sociology.

Chapter 1 Introduction

Chapter 2 The unexpected peacefulness of transitions
2.1. Social costs and early breakdown prophesies
2.3. Muted protests: Post-communist Europe in comparative perspective
2.4. Conclusions

Chapter 3 Political quiescence despite conditions for conflict
3.1. Disruptive protests: The case of threatened workers
3.2. Rival explanations of post-communist protest levels
3.3. Conclusions

Chapter 4 Preventing protests: Divide and pacify as political strategy
4.1. Divide and pacify in theory: Splitting up the threatened workers
4.2. Higher hurdles: The protest capacity of the unemployed and abnormal pensioners
4.3. Informal exit and small-scale work before and after 1989
4.4. Sentenced to silence: Protest opportunity costs of the unemployed and abnormal pensioners
4.5. Conclusions

Chapter 5 The Great Abnormal Pensioner Booms: Strategic social policies in practice
5.1. The unemployed: Divided first, squeezed later
5.2. Pensioner policies: The wheel of fortune reversed
5.3. Divide and pacify in action: The post-communist pensioner booms
5.4. Conclusions

Chapter 6 Peaceful pathways: The political economy of post-communist welfare
6.1. Policy shift: Interpreting early pensions choices
6.2. Generational politics: The subsequent evolution of welfare pathways
6.3. Post-communist labor market strategies
6.4. Alternative explanations of post-communist welfare politics
6.5. Conclusions

Chapter 7 Conclusions


"One of the most challenging and provocative publications that has appeared so far on the transformation of Central and Eastern European (CEE) welfare states…Of crucial importance … [is] not only the argument according to which welfare provisions can play a functional social pacifying role, but also, and this is the extremely innovative element proposed by Vanhuysse, dividing functions which do not necessarily lead to system-instability. …a must read."
“Divide and Pacify ... not only offers a novel and provocative approach to the problems of policy and politics in transition, but also opens up an innovative research agenda for understanding the formation of political cleavages in East Central Europe today. … There are several advantages to this approach, which render it an important contribution to scholarly inquiries into post-communist transition. For one, Vanhuysse emphasizes the strategic and purposeful action on the part of the governments, rejecting the accounts that see the development of social policies in the region as a byproduct of ad hoc, “emergency responses”, or alternatively as a continuation of policies already laid out under socialism. ... [this is] what gives the book its provocative edge and broaches an interesting research agenda … Vanhuysse’s arguments … outline a potentially very fruitful venue of inquiry: exploring the political decisions and cleavages of early transition politics in order to trace the ways in... more
"A fine first book by a young scholar who has entered forcefully into the conversation about dual transitions and comparative welfare states. It can profitably be read by specialists on the region as well as on labor and welfare politics, sociologists, political scientists, and economists and will be accessible and interesting to students of these topics at all levels."
"In the countries of Central Europe, postcommunist politics turned out to be surprisingly subdued. ... This was not the only odd thing about the region. In another strange turn of events, in Hungary and Poland during the early 1990s, hundreds of thousands of people suddenly became disabled and retired or simply vanished from the labor market. … Pieter Vanhuysse, in his lucid and brilliantly argued slim book Divide and Pacify, shows how the second oddity goes a long way toward explaining the first one. By connecting two puzzles he solves them both. … Vanhuysse does not confuse clarity with reductionism. His explanation is neither overly deterministic—the Czech case shows that governments had choices—nor does it rule out other factors. … Anyone who wants to write a more complete history of the Central European transition will have to read Divide and Pacify … Vanhuysse's work is a major contribution to the study of the postcommunist transition, and as it builds its case by... more
"Vanhuysse explores the reasons for the low level of labor strikes and reform protests in postcommunist Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. His time frame is 1989-96, and he utilizes quantitative data in a useful way in generating his conclusions. Summing up: Recommended."
"Pieter Vanhuysse has written a fascinating book on the phenomena of governmental policies and mass political behavior … an important addition not only to the literature on transitional democracies, but to the larger body of democracy scholarship … a fascinating theory that ties together governmental policies and mass political behavior. … a vibrant synergy of political science, economics, and sociology rife with insights … Vanhuysse significantly contributes to theoretical development in the field of democratic transitions and economic reforms as well as the field of comparative political economy of welfare states."
"A strikingly novel interpretation with solid methodology and intelligent conclusions. Vanhuysse shows that the legacy of applying informal solutions to the imminent problems has been an instinctive aspect of politics in East Europe. I consider this an original contribution to methodology literature as well as the literature of East European politics also presents clues to interpret some of the current economic and political problems in the CEE states. In order to understand the background for what is likely to come in East Europe, I would highly recommend Vanhuysse’s book as an immaculate contribution to regional studies, political economy theories, and methodology."
"A great book: smart, densely argued, tightly analysed and informative. We learn here a great deal about recent East European political history from what is a very original contribution. … We learn a great deal about governance. ... Governments in Eastern Europe after 1989 have generally not benefited from overwhelming respect, but here a record is laid out that shifting governments have been effective and enlightened. We learn a great deal about social policy. This story is a confirmation of the proposition that social policies are always an instrument of rule, order and legitimacy. … And we learn a great deal about political economy as an art of analysis. Vanhuysse presents theory, methodology and empirical analysis with equal force, blends them into a powerful and very interesting narrative…. Highly recommended"
"Pieter Vanhuysse…is a political scientist, an economist and a sociologist in one person. Through his original synthesis of insights from these various disciplines, he shows how an interdisciplinary perspective can help to make better sense of phenomena that appear to be puzzling, or that remain unaddressed, from the point of view of any one discipline. …Divide and Pacify…suggests that extensive social policies can be politically efficacious strategies, while never forgetting that such measures are needed to alleviate people’s suffering in the midst of traumatic social changes. …the core message of this book is important, and it has a larger relevance across many settings in which democratic governments face the task of implementing costly reforms in complex and uncertain policy environments."
"From the first word to the last, this well-written book is one straight line of thought, which makes it a pleasure to read and easy to capture and remember (and summarise). … drawing mainly on political science, sociology and psychology, Vanhuysse constructs an innovative explanatory framework in which the strategic use of social policy and the role of local social networks are key variables. … With his empirical analysis Vanhuysse not only confirms his thesis, but also presents an interesting account of how these early social policy choices led to different paths of social policy reforms within East Central Europe."