The Evolution of Agrarian Institutions

A Comparative Study of Post-Socialist Hungary and Bulgaria
Mieke Meurs
An examination of why private farming in the transition economies of East-Central Europe has not grown as quickly as expected


The Evolution of Agrarian Institutions studies the unexpectedly slow and uneven growth of private agriculture in postsocialist East-Central Europe. Comparing developments in Hungary and Bulgaria, Mieke Meurs offers an explanation for this slow growth and examines its implications for efficiency and income distribution in postsocialist agriculture.

With the collapse of the state socialist regimes in East-Central Europe, it was widely expected that collectivized agriculture would quickly be remade in the glowing image of China—a patchwork of small, privately run farms yielding rapid increases in output and incomes. However, the European experience has been quite different; while socialist collective farms have disappeared, collective forms of organization have persisted, and private farming has been slow to emerge. Meurs argues that an understanding of the causes of the slow emergence of private farming is essential to effective policy intervention in agriculture. This book contributes to such an understanding through analyzing variations in farm organization and rural market development and comparing agricultural restructuring in Hungary and Bulgaria.

The Evolution of Agrarian Institutions is unique in its combination of original survey data, published data on land use, and published historical data. It also tests two institutionalist explanations for the pace and direction of change in agricultural organization. This book will be of interest to economists, political scientists, sociologists, scholars working in the area of rural development in emerging countries, and anyone with an interest in transitional economics.

Mieke Meurs is Associate Professor of Economics, American University.

Praise / Awards

  • "A splendid integration of the diverse factors affecting early post-socialist agriculture. Both the rationality and limitations of enduring cooperative forms are convincingly demonstrated, as are the request policy suggestions. Specialists and students from across the social sciences will find much utility in this model."
    —Gerald W. Creed; Associate Professor; Dept. of Anthropology; Hunter College and the Graduate Center; City University of New York.
  • "Finally an analysis of early post-socialist agriculture that integrates multiple factors to explain both the rationality and limitations of enduring cooperative forms. Scholars and students from across the social sciences, as well as policy makers, will find much utility in this model."
    —Gerald W. Creed; Associate Professor; Dept. of Anthropology; Hunter College and the Graduate Center; City University of New York
  • "Ronald Coase has argued that the new institutional economics can provide important insights into our understanding of the transition process from communism to capitalism. Professor Meurs's book is an excellent example of how this framework can be used to explain otherwise perplexing events in Central and Eastern Europe. Her focus is the surprising endurance of cooperative forms of agriculture in Hungary and Bulgaria. She deftly argues how the contrasting Hungarian and Bulgarian experiences can be explained by transactions costs that are embedded in the political, social and historical experiences of the two countries."
    —Jeffrey Miller, University of Delaware
  • "Why didn't individual farming quickly follow from the much-maligned collectives when state socialism ended? This matter is painstakingly analyzed by Meurs for Bulgaria and Hungary. Her incisive arguments based upon extensive fieldwork provide illuminating answers."
    —William C. Thiesenhusen, Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • "At the beginning of 1990s [sic] a lot of people, both in East and West, shared a kind of myth that economic, political and socio-cultural changes catalysed by the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the demise of communist regimes in the Soviet bloc countries would result in a smooth passage towards market economy and political democracy based on he private property and emergence of the civil society. However, more than 10 years later we are all convinced that nothing like this happened and the process of post-communist transformation has been full of conflicts, and ambiguous results complex social change [sic] on practically every level of former communist societies. In this context Meurs' recent book seems to be a valuable contribution to such a de-mystification of Central and East European changes."
    —K. Gorlach, Jagiellonian University, Poland, Journal of Rural Studies, Vol. 18 (2002)
  • Co-winner: 2002 Edward A. Hewett Book Prize, American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies

Look Inside

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

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 144pp.
  • 2 drawings, 1 table, 2 maps, 2 illustrations.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2001
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11209-8

Add to Cart
  • $89.95 U.S.