Framing Criticism and Knowledge Production in Semi-peripheries: Post-socialism Unpacked


  • Norbert Petrovici Babes-Bolyai University

Abstract Views: 1396 PDF Downloads: 1209


More than two and a half decades after the demise of actually existing socialism, much of the contemporary literature produced about CEE is still organized around a dichotomy between socialism and post-socialism, transforming the region in an epistemic enclave. This paper clarifies the agencies of CEE scholars in producing these epistemic landscapes and adds to the analyses that describe the devices developed in peripheries that contribute to the asymmetries between the core and their academic hinterlands. I address the positioning games played by the CEE scholars, the modalities in which their various critical agendas became embedded in global fluxes of ideas, and their important role in co-producing the self-Orientalizing narrative on "socialism" and "post-socialism". Following the debate between Thelen (2011, 2012) and Dunn & Verdery (2011) over postsocialism as a strategic case, my contention is that the various degrees of epistemic enclavisation of the region spring from the various types of global partnerships, which forge critical alliances predicated on attributing history to West and taking out the East from the "normal" flow of history, coevalness being denied. I further develop this point by making appeal to an example, the understanding of socialist urbanization in the 1980s and 1990s. I illustrate why the over-emphasis on differences between socialism and capitalism, and socialism and post-socialism, and the underestimation of similarities, such as accumulation by dispossession and class decomposition, is a wrong analytical option. I plead for a more Gramsian understanding of counter-hegemonic alliances making.


Baer, M. (2014) Think Globally, Act Locally? Anthropological Strategies in/of East-Central Europe. Cargo. Journal for Cultural/Social Anthropology 12, 19-34.

Baločkaitė, R. (2010) Post-Soviet Transitions of the Planned Socialist Towns: Visaginas, Lithuania. Studies of Transition States and Societies 2, 63-81.

Bertaud, A. (2006) The spatial structures of Central and Eastern European cities. In S. Tsenkova and Z. Nedovic-Budic (eds.), The Urban Mosaic of Post-Socialist Eastern Europe: Space, Institutions and Policy, Springer, Dordrecht.

Bessire, L. and D. Bond (2014) Ontological anthropology and the deferral of critique. American Ethnologist 41, 440-56.

Bevernage, B. (2015) Against Coevalness: A Belated Critique of Johannes Fabian’s Project of Radical Contemporaneity and a Plea for a New Politics of Time. manuscript, Anthropological Theory (forthcoming).

Blagojević, M. and G. Yair (2010) The Catch 22 syndrome of social scientists in the semiperiphery: Exploratory sociological observations. Sociologija 52, 337-58.

Boatcă, M. (2003) From Neoevolutionism to World Systems Analysis: The Romanian Theory of" forms Without Substance" in Light of Modern Debates on Social Change. Leske und Budrich.

Boatca, M. and S. Costa (2012) Postcolonial Sociology: A Research Agenda. In E.G. Rodríguez and M. Boatca (eds.), Decolonizing European Sociology: Transdisciplinary Approaches, Ashgate Publishing, Farnham and Burlington.

Bockman, J. (2011) Markets in the Name of Socialism: The Left-Wing Origins of Neoliberalism. Stanford University Press, Stanford.

Bockman, J. and G. Eyal (2002) Eastern Europe as a Laboratory for Economic Knowledge: The Transnational Roots of Neoliberalism1. American Journal of Sociology 108, 310-52.

Bodnar, J. (2001) Fin de Millenaire Budapest Metamorphoses of Urban Life. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis & London.

Boltanski, L. and È. Chiapello (2005) The New Spirit of Capitalism. Verso, London and New YorK.

Buchowski, M. (2012) Intricate relations between Western anthropologists and Eastern ethnologists. Focaal 2012, 20-38.

Burawoy, M. and P. Krotov (1992) The Soviet Transition from Socialism to Capitalism: Worker Control and Economic Bargaining in the Wood Industry. American Sociological Review 57, 16-38.

Campeanu, P. (1987) The Origins of Stalinism: From Leninist Revolution to Stalinist Society. ME Sharpe, Armonk.

Carrier, J.G. and D. Kalb (2015) Anthropologies of Class. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Chari, S. and K. Verdery (2009) Thinking between the posts: postcolonialism, postsocialism, and ethnography after the Cold War. Comparative Studies in Society and History 51, 6-34.

Chibber, V. (2014) Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital. Verso Books, London.

Clifford, J. and G.E. Marcus (1986) Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Comaroff, J. (2010) The End of Anthropology, Again: On the Future of an In/discipline. American Anthropologist 112, 524-38.

Dalla Costa, M. (2012) Women’s Autonomy & Renumeration of Care Work. The Commoner 15, 198-234.

Dunn, E.C. (2004) Privatizing Poland: Baby Food, Big Business, and the Remaking of Labor. Cornell University Press, New York.

Dunn, E.C. and K. Verdery (2011) Dead ends in the critique of (post) socialist anthropology: Reply to Thelen. Critique of Anthropology 31, 251-5.

Dzenovska, D. (2013) Historical agency and the coloniality of power in postsocialist Europe. Anthropological Theory 13, 394-416.

Fabian, J. (1983) Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes its Object. Columbia University Press, New York.

Fehérváry, K. (2013) Politics in Color and Concrete: Socialist Materialities and the Middle Class in Hungary. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

Gille, Z. (2010) Is there a Global Postsocialist Condition? Global Society 24, 9-30.

Hadas, M. (1996) Bartok, the Scientist. Replika, 59-71.

Hann, C. and K. Hart (2011) Economic Anthropology: History, Ethnography, Critique. Polity Press, Cambridge and Malden.

Hann, C.M. (2002) Preface and Acknowledgements. In C.M. Hann (ed.), Postsocialism: Ideals, Ideologies, and Practices in Eurasia, Routledge, London and New York, XI-XII.

Hutchison, R., M. Gottdiener and M.T. Ryan (2015) The New Urban Sociology. Westview Press, Boulder.

Jelinek, C. and A. Pinkasz (2014) 1989. Bevezető a Fordulat 21 Számához. Fordulat 21, 5-7.

Kasmir, S. and A. Carbonella (2014) Blood and Fire: Toward a Global Anthropology of Labor. Berghahn Books, London and New York.

Kołodziejczyk, D. and C. Şandru (2012) Introduction: On colonialism, communism and east-central Europe–some reflections. Journal of Postcolonial Writing 48, 113-6.

Kornai, J. (1980) Economics of Shortage. North Holland, Amsterdam.

Kornai, J. (1992) The Socialist System: The Political Economy of Communism Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Lengyel, G. (1996) Economic Sociology in East-Central Europe: Trends and challenges. Replika, 33-51.

Lengyel, G. (2004) On the origin and variety of problems in current Central and East-European sociology (a reflection on the article of Keen and Mucha). European Societies 6, 149-57.

Medina, L.R. (2013) Centers and Peripheries in Knowledge Production. Routledge.

Mignolo, W.D. (2006) Introduction: Double critique. Knowledges and scholars at risk in post-Soviet societies. South Atlantic Quarterly Summer 105, 479-99.

Milicevic, A.S. (2001) Radical Intellectuals: What Happened to the New Urban Sociology? International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 25, 759-83.

Mizielinska, J. and R. Kulpa (2012) De-centring Western Sexualities: Central and Eastern European Perspectives. Ashgate Publishing, London.

Murray, P. and I. Szelenyi (1984) The City in the Transition to Socialism. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 8, 90-107.

Némedi, D. (2010) Traditions and Ruptures in Hungarian Sociology 1900–2000. In S. Patel (ed.), The ISA Handbook of Diverse Sociological Traditions, Sage, London, 152.

Oleksiyenko, A. (2014) On the Shoulders of Giants? Global Science, Resource Asymmetries, and Repositioning of Research Universities in China and Russia. Comparative Education Review 58, 482-508.

Owczarzak, J. (2009) Introduction: Postcolonial studies and postsocialism in Eastern Europe. Focaal 2009, 3.

Peck, J. and N. Theodore (2012) Reanimating neoliberalism: process geographies of neoliberalisation. Social Anthropology 20, 177–85.

Petrovici, N. (2010) Corrupt Knowledge and the Quest for Objectivity: A Critique of the Romanian Positivist Sociology. Studia Universitatis Babes-Bolyai-Sociologia, 221-38.

Petrovici, N. (2012) Workers and the City: Rethinking the Geographies of Power in Post-socialist Urbanisation. Urban Studies 49, 2377-97.

Petrovici, N. (2013) Neoliberal Proletarization along the Urban-Rural Divide in Postsocialist Romania. Studia Universitatis Babes-Bolyai-Sociologia 58, 23-54.

Pobłocki, K. (2009) Whither anthropology without nation-state? Interdisciplinarity, world anthropologies and commoditization of knowledge. Critique of Anthropology 29, 225-52.

Poenaru, F. (2011) “Tismăneanu Report” as Autobiography. History Writing at the End of (Soviet) Modernity. Studia Universitatis Babes-Bolyai-Sociologia 56, 19-38.

Quijano, A. (2000) Coloniality of power and Eurocentrism in Latin America. International Sociology 15, 215-32.

Rabinow, P., G.E. Marcus, J.D. Faubion and T. Rees (2008) Designs for an Anthropology of the Contemporary. Duke University Press, Durham.

Sassen, S. (2000) New Frontiers Facing Urban Sociology at the Millennium. The British journal of sociology 51, 143-59.

Schueth, S. (2011) Assembling International Competitiveness: The Republic of Georgia, USAID, and the Doing Business Project. Economic Geography 87, 51-77.

Simionca, A. (2012) Neoliberal Managerialism, Anti-Communist Dogma and the Critical Employee in Contemporary Romania. Studia Sociologie 57, 125-49.

Smelser, N.J. and R. Swedberg (2005) Introducing Economic Sociology. In N.J. Smelser and R. Swedberg (eds.), The Handbook of Economic Sociology, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 3-25.

Stark, D. (1986) Rethinking Internal Labor Markets: New Insights from a Comparative Perspective. American Sociological Review 51, 492-504.

Stefanescu, B. and I. Galleron (2012) Postcommunism: An Other Postcolonialism? Word and Text, A Journal of Literary Studies and Linguistics, 05-12.

Steinmetz, G. (ed.) (2005) The Politics of Method in the Human Sciences: Positivism and its Epistemological Others. Duke University Press, Durham.

Stenning, A. and K. Hörschelmann (2008) History, Geography and Difference in the Post‐socialist World: Or, Do We Still Need Post‐Socialism? Antipode 40, 312-35.

Sýkora, L. and S. Bouzarovski (2012) Multiple Transformations: Conceptualising the Post-communist Urban Transition. Urban Studies 49, 43–60.

Szelényi, I. (1996) Cities under Socialism and After. In G. Andrusz, M. Harloe and I. Szelényi (eds.), Cities after Socialism. Urban and Regional Change and Conflict in Post-Socialist Societies, Blackwell, Oxford, 286-317.

Thelen, T. (2011) Shortage, fuzzy property and other dead ends in the anthropological analysis of (post) socialism. Critique of Anthropology 31, 43-61.

Thelen, T. (2012) Economic concepts, common grounds and ‘new’diversity in the Anthropology of post-socialism: Reply to Dunn and Verdery. Critique of Anthropology 32, 87-90.

Tlostanova, M.V. and W.D. Mignolo (2012) Learning to Unlearn: Decolonial Reflections from Eurasia and the Americas. The Ohio State University Press, Columbus.

Todorova, M.a.N. and Z. Gille (2010) Post-Communist Nostalgia. Berghahn Books, London and New York.

Troc, G. (2012) Patterns of Migration and Economic Development in Southern Danube Micro-region. Studia UBB Europaea 57, 85-116.

Tulbure, N. (2009) Introduction to special issue: Global socialisms and postsocialisms. Anthropology of East Europe Review 27, 2-18.

Verdery, K. (1996) What Was Socialism, and What Comes Next? Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Verdery, K. (1999) Fuzzy Property: Rights, Power and Identity in Transylvania’s Decollectivization. Uncertain Transition: Ethnographies of Change in the Postsocialist World, 53-81.

Wallerstein, I. (2011) The Modern World-System III: The Second Era of Great Expansion of the Capitalist World-Economy, 1730s–1840s. Univ of California Press, Berkeley.

Wessely, A. (1996) The Cognitive Chance of Central European Sociology. Replika, 11-9.

Wolf, E.R. (1982) Europe and the People Without History. University of California Press, Berkeley.




How to Cite

Petrovici, N. 2015. Framing Criticism and Knowledge Production in Semi-peripheries: Post-socialism Unpacked. Intersections. East European Journal of Society and Politics. 1, 2 (Jun. 2015). DOI: