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SPP 325

Title: FREE NOT TO PARTICIPATE: THE WEAKNESS OF CIVIL SOCIETY IN POST-COMMUNIST EUROPE
 
Author: Marc Morjé Howard
 
Description: This paper seeks to explain why civil society--conceived of as a crucial part of the public space between the state and the family, and embodied in voluntary organizations--is extremely weak in post-communist Europe. An original analysis of the 1997 World Values Survey shows that organizational membership is much lower in post-communist countries than in either the older democracies of the West or the post-authoritarian countries of Southern Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa. This analysis demonstrates that, while controlling for other country-level factors (economic, political, and "civilizational"), a country's prior communist experience has a strong negative effect on contemporary organizational membership. The paper then considers a host of individual-level factors that could account for the weakness of post-communist civil society, by incorporating data from the Post-Communist Organizational Membership Study, a representative survey that was conducted in early 1999 in Russia, Eastern Germany, and Western Germany. The results show that three "experiential" factors have a mutually-reinforcing negative effect on public participation in post-communist Europe: 1) a legacy of mistrust of organizations; 2) the persistence of vibrant friendship networks; and 3) the widespread disappointment with the new democratic and capitalist systems.

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