How Can High Levels of Corruption in Central and Eastern Europe Be Explained? What Impact Does It Have on Societies at Large?

Topics: Communism, Politics, Marxism Pages: 6 (2162 words) Published: April 5, 2012
How can high levels of corruption in Central and Eastern Europe be explained? What impact does it have on societies at large? Corruption constitutes a significant part of politics in Eastern Europe to the extent that “talking about corruption is the way post- communist public talks about politics, economy about past and future” (Krastov, p 43). Transparency International defines corruption as “a misuse of public power for the private gain at the expense of the public good”. There are different types of corruption: bureaucratic, political –administrative, political legislative and judicial corruption. (Ott, p 72). Scholars introduced many potential explanations behind the astronomical levels of corruption in Central and Eastern Europe. In this essay I will examine the communist legacies as well as pre-socialist historical and political background as some of the factors that result in modern day corruption. I will additionally assess the impact of the transitional period on the corruption level. Furthermore it I will examine corruption’s negative costs, such as economic inefficiency and distortion of civil society, decline of the rule of law and, the rise in organised crime along with arguably positive consequences such as resolving bureaucracy and increase in productivity among the officials. Corrupt legal and political systems that were indicative of communist states have greatly influenced the region today. This is due to the connection between economics and politics in the socialist system, which is even closer than it is in liberal democracies (Krastev, p 180). People were forced by the system itself to cheat in order to achieve improv their lives. In western democracies, citizens were able to move around freely and had alternative employers, whereas “in socialist society with technically one employer it was hard to achieve wanted promotion”(Karklins, 80). Frustration at the system endorsed corruption as means of taking revenge at the system (Karklins). Because of “the legacy of seeking individualized solutions” became so widespread during socialism it had consequences on the macro level (Karklins). This became even more important following the break up of the USSR as “the politically linked were the biggest winners in the beginning of transition” (Karklins,p 83). For example, Hungarian communist youth organization purchased the main newspaper for only 1.5 million forints yet in less than a year the paper was sold for over 100 million (Karklins,p 83). Socialism stimulated inequality during transition, when a “culture of functional friendship served to cover the exchange of favours as something pleasant and kind” (Holmes, p 79). This communist legacy remains strong in some countries, such as Moldova due to the inability of executive, legislature and judiciary to protect enforce a solid rule of law, which in turn forces people to seek for alternative protection, to the detriment of a strong civil society. Another legacy inherited by the region was the poor economic situation which led to a situation where a “considerable part of this unofficial regime entailed the second economy”(Karklins,p 76). Scholars such as Miller suggests, that this occurred because trust in the public good and social solidarity was undermined as the real socialist society was split up into “an archipelago of networks whose members were focused on exchanges with fellow network members at the expense of outsiders”(Miller, p). A huge gap emerged as “private and dysfunctional public structure; moral declined visibly too, replacing old values with “materialism and individualism” (Miller,p 193). I don’t understand what this means?

As a result people were applying rules of the past regime in a new economy. Another factor was transition itself. As discussed by Karklins privatisation of the wealth of the communist states provided huge incentives and opportunities that were ill protected by insufficient regulation (Karklins p 80). Due to the vast...
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