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WCED Lecture - Communist Legacies and Democratic Survival: Liability or Advantage?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008
12:00 AM
1636 International Institute/SSWB

Michael Bernhard, professor, Department of Political Science, Pennsylvania State University. Sponsored by the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies, Center for European Studies-European Union Center, Center for Russian and East European Studies.


Much of the literature on the legacy of communism for democracy focuses on negative behavioral factors, e.g., the "Leninist" legacy, weak" civil society. Others have pointed to geographic proximity to the West and the resource curse as the sources of differences in postcommunist democratic performance. At the same time, aspects of the communist experience, the attainment of relatively high levels of development and socio-economic equality, would seem to be advantages from the perspective of the literature that studies democratic survival. Given the recent movement of many postcommunist states to and from electoral authoritarianism and democracy, the existing literature does not capture what allows postcommunist countries to sustain democracy. Here, using a survival framework, we look at whether the disadvantages posited by the literature on postcommunist democratic performance are in part off-set by the levels of modernity attained by these societies under communism. We test whether a communist legacy is a positive or negative factor in the survival of democracies and which factors promote survival in postcommunist states. (co-authored with Timothy Nordstrom)

Curriculum vitae and web resources