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Theories of Transition


  • Colin SPARKS

    () (University of Westminster)


This paper reviews the main academic theory of post-communist societies, which argues that these are examples of transition towards the models existing in the free-market western democracies. It argues that the empirical evidence suggests that the theory is incorrect in that it is unable to account for the variety of contradictory outcomes that have been experienced. Some of the post-communist states are democracies, in the sense used in this tradition of analysis, but others clearly are not. At the same time, China has experienced a transition away from a command economy towards a market economy, while the Communist Party has remained in complete control of political life and no transition towards democracy can even be discerned. The paper argues that the various attempts to rescue this dominant orthodoxy by minor adaptation have been unsuccessful and that it is time to abandon the approach. In its place, the paper advances an alternative theory, “elite continuity and renewal” which it is argued explains the nature of the changes, particularly in the mass media, much more satisfactorily than does the old theory.

Suggested Citation

  • Colin SPARKS, 2010. "Theories of Transition," Revista Romana de Jurnalism si Comunicare - Romanian Journal of Journalism and Communication, University of Bucharest, Faculty of Journalism and Communication Studies – Universitatea din Bucuresti, Facultatea de Jurnalism si Stiintele Comunicarii, issue 3, pages 5-18.
  • Handle: RePEc:foj:journl:y:2010:i:3:p:5-18

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    More about this item


    post-communism; transition; transitology; democracy; market; elite;

    JEL classification:

    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values


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