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Old Political Rationalities and New Democracies: Compromise and Confrontation in Hungary and Poland

Anna Seleny
World Politics
Vol. 51, No. 4 (Jul., 1999), pp. 484-519
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25054092
Page Count: 36
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Old Political Rationalities and New Democracies: Compromise and Confrontation in Hungary and Poland
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Abstract

Studies of democratic consolidation tend to highlight the same factors previously used to explain countries' transitional dynamics. Yet one cannot properly understand success or failure in democratic consolidation-much less discern significant qualitative differences among consolidated democracies-by focusing exclusively on formal institutions, modes of transition, incentive structures, or exogenous factors. Close inspection of two newly consolidated democracies-Poland and Hungary-shows that despite radically altered institutional arrangements, legal structures, and political-economic incentives, the most important determinants of the models of democracy emerging today derive from pretransition conceptual frames and informal political settlements. Specifically, the core conflicts between ruling elites and society in communist Poland and Hungary, as well as the patterns of political accommodation that evolved in the management of those conflicts, continue to structure the political agenda and order debate in both countries. In Poland overlapping ethical-ideological cleavages and failures of political accommodation under the ancien régime have resulted in a confrontational-pluralist model of democracy. In contrast, Hungary's compromise-corporatist model stems from early informal accommodation between the party-state and society that recast most conflicts as "economic" in nature. These long-standing conflicts and political patterns explain striking contemporary differences in social mobilization, party competition, and constitutional development. The article concludes with a discussion of how these models are likely to shape each country's prospects for sustained governability and increased democratic legitimacy.

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