The post-communist transition in Romania has been a period rife with high hopes and expectations as well as strong disappointments and disillusions. The engagement with these disappointments or disillusions has mainly fallen along the lines of critical editorial comments by dissidents and intellectuals or academic engagements that connect it to different forms of social and political apathy. What seems to be lacking however, is a more head-on engagement with disillusionment as a self-contained process that is not just a side-effect of political corruption or economic failures but rather an intrinsic part of any transition. This book provides the basis for a theory of disillusionment in instances of transition. It also elaborates on how such a theory could be applied to a specific case-study, in this instance, the Romanian transition from communism to capitalism. By defining disillusionment as the loss of particularly strong collective illusions, the book identifies what those illusions were in the context of the Romanian 1989 Revolution. It also seeks to understand the extent to which disillusionment is intrinsic to social change, and more importantly, determine whether it plays an essential role in shaping both the direction and the form of change. The book further inevitably places itself at the intersection of a number of different academic literatures: from regional and comparative studies, political science and "transitology" studies, to sociology, psychology and cultural studies.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book provides the basis for a theory of disillusionment in instances of transition. It elaborates on how such a theory could be applied to a specific case-study, in this instance, the Romanian transition from communism to capitalism. The book seeks to position Romania seventeen years into its transition, providing a benchmark against which to better understand the historical evolution of the transition. It examines the important role that both individual and collective illusions play in maintaining social solidarity and building a relationship with the state. The book utilizes the concept of shock to build a framework for better understanding the transition from the communist illusion to the capitalist illusion. It follows a similar logical structure, relying instead on the illusions of the first members of civil society in post-revolutionary Romania.
Two major events marked Romania's transition from the year 2006 to 2007: the publishing of the Presidential Report Analyzing the Communist Dictatorship of Romania and Romania's official entry into the European Union (EU). This chapter seeks to briefly discuss how these two major events have played out in Romania and what insight they can provide into further examinations of the origin and the particular evolution of the Romanian transition. Working backwards along the historical timeline, these debates hope to provide an interesting benchmark against which to analyze the events surrounding the 1989 Romanian Revolution, the formation of the first civil society organization and the historical experience of the Romanian transition. The Secret Security files and the EU are perhaps the quintessential symbols of the communist experience and the past; and the integration into the "capitalist West" and the future, respectively.
This chapter offers an explanation and classification of utopias or illusions by turning towards the fields of sociology and psychology, to better understand the way in which individuals and collectives use the illusions to navigate instances of social change. It argues that disillusionment is an inevitable part of any process of transition or social change. The chapter seeks to understand both the positive and negative aspects of disillusionment. It explores the extent to which the concept can be used to offer an alternative way of interrogating and theorizing the changes in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe. The chapter attempts a humble approach to understand the illusions on which the modern ideologies of communism and capitalism were built, as a way of framing later discussions on the Romanian Revolution, the emergence of the first civil society groups and popular perceptions of the transition.
This chapter seeks to answer the question of how transitions came to be understood as generally positive times. It explores different understandings of the concept of shock, arguing that perhaps the transition from a negative to a positive connotation of shock might provide the answer. The concept of shock has perhaps become most popular in the contemporary Central and Eastern European context through what was known as shock therapy. If the normalization process implies a particular kind of adjustment to shock, Carl Cassegard discusses a slightly different response to the shock of modernity through what he calls the process of naturalization. Faced with a brand new economic and political environment and a constantly changing self, Central and Eastern European societies entered into a different kind of shock, something that some sociologists described as a collective culture shock.
By focusing on the most important controversies that surround the Romanian Revolution, and applying a framework that looks at the process of illusion formation and loss-disillusionment, this chapter offers an alternative view of the process of social change in Romania. While the post-communist political horizon was dominated by the emergence of the National Salvation Front (NSF) as the transition government and then the first freely elected government of Romania, the NSF cannot claim to be the first political formation in post-communist Romania. This privilege must be reserved for the Romanian Democratic Front (RDF), a political organization formed by the leaders of the Timisoara revolution that led the first negotiations with the communist part and publicly expressed the criteria for an independent Romania. A closer examination of a series of incidents such as the Valea Jiului revolt and the Brasov demonstrations reveals the increasing weakness of the communist regime in Romania.
This chapter reveals how the civil society illusion was particularly built in Romania in order to fit and support the larger capitalist illusion. It seeks to challenge common misconceptions about the nature of Romanian civil society, and provides an alternative understanding of the role of civil society through the particular trajectory of the Group for Social Dialogue (GSD). The GSD was formed in the days immediately following the fall of the Ceausescu regime in Romania by a series of Romanian intellectuals and dissidents who came together under the impulse to create a space for discussion. This discussion would facilitate the democratization process. The chapter also seeks to underline the striking discrepancies between initial imaginings of the role of civil society by different Central and Eastern European writers and later use of the concept mainly in conjunction with a series of national and international NGOs.
A visual narrative of the Romanian transition to capitalism
Anca Mihaela Pusca
This chapter sets out to explore the visual horizon of transitioning Romania and points to a series of important elements that have come to dominate it. One may easily consider the members of the 7 Days Group as visual anthropologists, expressing their findings through images as opposed to written or spoken narratives. The experience of the flaneur versus that of the spectator is separated by different visual techniques. Walter Benjamin used the concept of the flaneur to describe the streets of nineteenth-century Paris, the transformations in the industrial cityscape and the influence that these transformations had on everything from fashion to the way in which people related to their environment and each other. Industrial transformations are intrinsically linked to the urban as the ultimate expression of modernity. Susan BuckMorss argues that communism and capitalism were much more than two modern ideologies: they were two dreamworlds, or spectacles of modernity.
This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the key concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. The book shows the extent to which the communist and capitalist illusions are significantly different from other types of collective social illusions. It deals with the trauma associated with the process of change or transition, using the concept of shock. Following the trajectory of the first self-proclaimed civil society group in Romania, the Group for Social Dialogue (GSD), the book explains the role that the group played in popularizing democratic reforms and challenging neo-communist tendencies in the newly elected government. It focuses on the increasing role that the visual plays in the formation of new social and political illusions. The book examines the extent to which different forms of representation, such as photography, can open up much-needed spaces for self-reflection and create new forms of interaction between the subject and the photographer.