Out of the Red

Building Capitalism and Democracy in Postcommunist Europe
Mitchell A. Orenstein
A comprehensive parallel study of two critical East-Central European transition economies


After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the countries of East-Central Europe embarked on a journey to transform themselves into democratic capitalist societies. Their governments searched for strategies that would allow them to pursue radical market reforms within the context of nascent democratic politics. Poland adopted a neoliberal strategy that attempted to push through as much reform as possible before an antireform backlash could occur. In the Czech Republic, a social liberal strategy for transformation attempted to combine neoliberal macro-economic policies with social democratic measures designed to avert such a backlash.

A detailed analysis of Poland and the Czech Republic suggests that alternation between strategies has been the secret to the success of East-Central European countries.

This comparative case analysis identifies the significance of reform mistakes during transition and the corrective benefits of policy alternation, its claims illustrated with an in-depth study of privatization policy in the two countries.

Mitchell A. Orenstein delves into the historic struggle to build capitalism and democracy during a decade of post- communist transition in East-Central Europe and develops a model that explains why democratic policy alternation may accelerate policy learning under conditions of uncertainty and constraint.

Out of the Red is accessible to a general audience and as such is suitable for both graduate and undergraduate courses on political economy. It will be of particular interest to economists, political scientists, sociologists, students of postcommunism, and anyone interested in the relations between capitalism and democracy in the contemporary world.

Mitchell A. Orenstein is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Syracuse University.

Praise / Awards

  • "A significant book on an important and timely topic. It is clearly argued, and the writing is clear and straightforward. A wonderful piece of scholarship."
    —David Stark, Department of Sociology, Columbia University
  • "A fundamental starting point for understanding the dynamics and policy implications of dual economic and political transitions."
    —John Gould, University of Denver
  • ". . . Orenstein's volume is notable for its very informative analysis of political and economic change in highly turbulent times. It shows nicely that there is no single path to capitalism and that the ability to correct policy mistakes is at least as important as being able to select a strategy in the first place. The tale is told well, and the volume is well worth reading."
    —Ellen Comisso, University of California, San Diego, American Political Science Review, December 2002
  • "Orenstein does an excellent job of mixing theory with a keen understanding of the political personalities in the two countries and the broader social and political currents."
    —J. C. Brada, Arizona State University, Choice, June 2002
  • "Out of the Red is a timely and accessible attempt to deal with what is undoubtedly a significant topic. As such, it is a worthy contribution to the burgeoning literature on post-communism."
    —Stuart Shields, International Affairs, Volume 78, No. 2 (2002)
  • "Out of the Red would make an excellent undergraduate and graduate text in courses in comparative public policy and democratic governance. As a scholarly work,, it brings a fresh perspective to our understanding of the political economy of policy reform, countering the all-too-prevalent view that the end of communism in Eastern Europe brought about a global neoliberal consensus and the demise of the social democratic left."
    —Jacqui True, Michigan State University, Journal of Politics, Volume 64: No. 2 (May 2002)
  • ". . . a persuasive, engaging, and important work. As such, it constitutes a valuable and genuinely thought provoking addition to the literature on the political economy of post-communist transformation."
    Perspectives on European Politics and Society
  • winner, Gabriel A. Almond Award, 1997 (best dissertation in the field of comparative politics) 

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Copyright © 2001, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 184pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2001
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06746-6

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  • $30.95 U.S.