Green Barons, Force-of-Circumstance Entrepreneurs, Impotent Mayors

Rural Change in the Early Years of Post-Socialist Capitalist Democracy
$111.00 / €95.00 / £90.00
Publication date: 
412 pages

An exemplary study in comparative contemporary history, this monograph looks at rural change in six countries: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. In the 1990s most of these nations experienced a fourth radical restructuring of agricultural relations in the twentieth century, and all went through the dramatic transition from communism to capitalism.

The author analyzes attempts to activate democracy on a local level and recreate farming structures and non-agricultural businesses based on private ownership and private enterprise. He describes the emergence of a new business class that seeks to dominate local government structures; the recuperation of former communist farming entities by former managers; and the transformation of peasants into rural citizens, who nevertheless remain the underdogs.

Swain exposes common features as well as specific divergences between the six countries; he portrays the winners, losers and engineers of transformations. He situates his themes in a wider context that will appeal to a broad range of social scientists and historians.

Chapter 1 A Post-Socialist Capitalism
Chapter 2 Post-socialist, Pre-EU Emergent Post-Socialist Capitalism at the Local Level
Chapter 3 Common Features
Chapter 4 Bulgaria
Chapter 5 Czech Republic
Chapter 6 Hungary
Chapter 7 Poland
Chapter 8 Romania
Chapter 9 Slovakia

"Nigel Swain's book combines contemporary historical analysis and comparative sociology in a remarkable effort to provide a complex tool for understanding the processes of transforming former communist societies into capitalist ones. The whole book is built on an analytical pattern which allows the reader to distinguish between various dimensions of the transformation process, including changes in agricultural and non-farming sectors as well as the construction of the new local authorities. The book offers answers to important questions such as why the existence of a secondary economic sector in Hungary assured the needed resources for entrepreneurship. How important was the fact that in Poland state farm workers were landless? Why are contemporary farms from the Czech Republic larger than in other former communist countries? The book draws an exceptionally detailed image of rural changes in the early postcommunist period and presents a variety of economic, social and... more
"The transformations taking place in East Central Europe after 1989 went incredibly fast and spread to all aspects of society. While the process of transformation was considered a success by many (particularly those outside of the region), it was also experienced as a crisis to many. Despite a growing awareness of the crucial role of urban entrepreneurs and local office holders in privatization, little attention has been paid to rural communities in East Central Europe. Nigel Swain aims to change that in his work on Green barons, force-of-circumstance entrepreneurs and impotent mayors. It is a stunning collection of case studies which helps elucidate the lived experience of transition in rural areas in the early 1990s."
"Nigel Swain’s insightful book provides the best comprehensive discussion available of a woefully neglected subject: the transformation of agricultural communities in post-Communist Europe during the 1990s. The book is based on sociological research conducted in fifty-four villages (nine in each of six countries) between 1993 and 1996. Swain wisely notes that because of the unique moment in which the research took place, the collected evidence quickly acquired exceptional historical value, and the resulting book is appropriately interdisciplinary. Its author is a historian trained in the social sciences, and the book will appeal to anthropologists, economists, and sociologists interested in rural communities and agriculture, as well as to historians and political scientists interested in local government and times of transition. Swain succeeds admirably at illustrating the range of experience in the rural communities of post-Communist Europe during the unique historical moment... more
"After twenty years of extensive research and publications on diff erent aspects of rural change in postsocialist eastern Europe, Nigel Swain is unquestionably a leading scholar in this field. With his Green Barons, Force-of-Circumstance Entrepreneurs, Impotent Mayors, a volume on rural change in east central and southeastern Europe from 1989 until the mid-1990s, he offers a synthesis of his knowledge. This is to be treated as overwhelmingly good news... 'Green barons' and 'force-of-circumstance entrepreneurs' aptly describe the two most common careers in rural postsocialist eastern Europe. In a broader historical perspective, the postsocialist pattern of landholding was unique in that many owned land but few had the human, social, or cultural resources to embark on farming it privately and commercializing the products."
"Neben Autoren wie Constantin Iordachi, Gerald Creed und Katherine Verdery befasst auch Nigel Swain sich seit Längerem mit gerade diesen vermeintlich nicht marktfähigen, transformationsbremsenden Bereichen, die in Ländern wie Polen und Rumänien indes demographisch, gesellschaftlich und volkswirtschaftlich nach wie vor bedeutsam sind. Interessant ist, dass in diesem Forschungsfeld die Wende 1989/1991 nur wenige personelle Diskontinuitäten nach sich gezogen hat. Die interessanten Ergebnisse nicht nur bezüglich der großen Unterschiede von Ort zu Ort, sondern vor allem bezüglich der divergierenden nationalen Ausgangslagen rechtfertigen die methodische Herangehensweise durchaus."