The Great Surprise of the Small Transformation

The Demise of Communism and the Rise of the Private Sector in Hungary
Akos Rona-Tas
Views the fall of Communism in Hungary as the result of the erosion of universal state employment and the development of an informal private sector during the time of Communist rule


The relatively peaceful and rapid collapse of Communism came as a great surprise to most, and the varied paths followed by the countries emerging from Communism has puzzled many. Róna-Tas argues that, under Communism, the central institution organizing society was universal state employment. Over time, universal state employment eroded and a weak private sector evolved, before Communism collapsed. This erosion is what the book calls the "Small Transformation." The Small Transformation was a process of fragmentation that slowly undid the concentration created in these societies by the process of socialist industrialization, the Great Transformation. The way the Small Transformation proceeded in different states is crucial in explaining differences in the way Communism collapsed and in the course the market economy is taking.

The book draws on an unusually wide array of sources including archival materials, statistical surveys, newspapers, and ethnographic materials, to demonstrate the unfolding of the Small Transformation in Hungary. Róna-Tas argues that the fall of Hungarian Communism took a negotiated course because Hungary's Small Transformation was sufficiently advanced to induce elite defection well before 1989. The book documents nomenklatura privatization and the social continuities and discontinuities of post-Communist Hungary. Its overall arguments are useful in understanding what has happened in other states.

This book will be of interest to scholars studying transformation in Communist societies, political economy, social change, revolutions and economic and social history, as well as to students of the politics and society of Eastern Europe.

Ákos Róna-Tas is Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of California at San Diego.

Praise / Awards

  • "Rona-Tas adds a sociologist's perspective to the predominantly economic and political analyses of communism's collapse in Eastern Europe and the transition to a market economy."
  • ". . . stimulating and strongly recommended to readers who are not only interested in the facts of the transformation process in some CEE countries, but also in an historical analysis which places the 'small' transformation in historical perspective."
    —Paul Windolf, University of Trier, Economic Systems, Volume 23, Issue 3, 1999

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 312pp.
  • tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 1997
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-10795-7

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  • $99.95 U.S.