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.