Who Has Gotten Ahead After the Fall of Communism?

The Case of the Czech Republic

Published in: Czech Sociological Review, v. 3, no. 2, 1995, p. 117-137

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 1995

by Petr Matějů, Nelson Lim

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Recent political, economic and social developments in East-European countries offer exceptional opportunities to study the effects of profound transformations of political and economic systems on social stratification. However, in contrast to a vital theoretical debate on political and economic issues of the postcommunist transformation, theoretical reflections of changes in inequality and social stratification in post-communist countries have been rather scarce. We criticize Nee's theory of "market transition" for neglecting the effects of individual mobility on economic inequality. Bourdieu's concept of various forms of capital is then used as a theoretical framework for the elaboration of the role of specific patterns of individual mobility in the development of economic inequality. The data from a longitudinal study "Family 1989" (Czech Republic) is analyzed in order to answer three questions: "Can we find any significant changes in the determinants of income between 1989 and 1992?", "What are the most efficient strategies of economic success during the period of transition to a market economy?" and "What are the determinants of these strategies?" We find that in the Czech Republic, the former "nomenklatura cadres" are able to maintain their advantageous positions in the income hierarchy, mainly because they possess "human capital" and can effectively convert "social capital", accumulated during the communist regime, into economic capital. A rapid increase in returns to education testifies to a significant change in the role of human capital during the post-communist transformation. Although we have not found strong support for the hypothesis about the increasing role of cultural capital, social capital turned out to be a strong force driving individual careers during the post-communist transformation.

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