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After the exuberance that marked the revolutions of 1989, the countries of Eastern Europe have faced the breathtakingly ambitious task of remaking their societies. Simultaneously they have sought to build liberal democracies based on market economics, while confronting reassertions of claims for national independence long suppressed. Taking up where his previous book Surge to Freedom ended, J. F. Brown’s Hopes and Shadows analyzes the results of the first four years of Eastern Europe’s separation from communist rule and the prospects for the future.
The forces at work in the midst of this revolution are examined from a perspective that is necessarily both historical and contemporary as the complex relationship between the tasks that face these countries and the legacy of their communist and pre-communist past shape the difficult present. As the usefulness of the designation "Eastern Europe" is itself questioned, Brown provides both regional and country-by-country analysis of the political situation. The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland are grouped together, as are Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania, to address questions such as the development of liberal democratic culture, the activation of democratic institutions and procedures, and the future of former communist bureaucracies. He considers the former Yugoslavia—now torn violently apart—largely as a separate case. The theoretical, political, social, financial, cultural, and psychological dimensions of the transition from socialism to a market economy are discussed in detail. The final aspect of this revolution, the failure of which most immediately threatens the entire process, is the attempt to build new and stable national statehoods. Brown explores the history and impact of the current reemergence of nationalism and the dangers it represents.
A comprehensive and authoritative survey, J. F. Brown’s analysis and presentation of the contemporary Eastern European political landscape will be essential reading for scholars and specialists and of great interest to general readers.