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Int. J. Sustainable Development, Vol. 8, Nos.

1/2, 2005


But doth suffer a sea-change the need for a change of perspective for a realistic sustainability strategy in an enlarged EU Frieder Otto Wolf
Traunsteiner Str. 8, D 10781 Berlin, Germany Fax: 00492188461 E-mail:
Abstract: This paper, first, traces some main alleys for re-thinking the very underlying notions with which we tend to think about the situation with regard to the large enlargement of 2004, especially critically reflecting upon the conventional notions of transition and transformation. Second, it proceeds to developing some new questions to be asked on the basis of renewed underlying notions of political interventions into variegated concrete historical processes, especially concerning the specific historical paths of development of the respective countries before, during, and after their period of Soviet dominance. Third, it presents some arguments, why these variegated situations in the history of new member countries or future accession countries present, at once, a specific challenge and a significant chance for an approach in terms of a complex and integrated strategy of sustainable development, allowing for many specific strategies to be implicit in one overarching and second order strategy defining a practice of governance for sustainable development. On this basis it outlines a new approach to what it calls the task of a second order governance, defining a sustainability strategy to identify to unearth and to revive those innovative lines and traditions within the CEE and CIS countries which are specifically related to such an attitude of looking for windows of opportunity for concrete moves approaching objectives of sustainable development i.e., for looking systematically and comprehensively for constructive alternatives to the unilateralism of the leading powers and hegemonic strata which have defined the simplified models in place. Keywords: EU enlargement; sustainability strategy; transition. Reference to this paper should be made as follows: Wolf, F.O. (2005) But doth suffer a sea-change the need for a change of perspective for a realistic sustainability strategy in an enlarged EU, Int. J. Sustainable Development, Vol. 8, Nos. 1/2, pp.113126. Biographical notes: Frieder Otto Wolf is Senior Lecturer (Privatdozent) for Philosophy at the Institute of Philosophy at the Freie Universitt Berlin, Germany, and director of the Institute for European Communication, Berlin. He received his Dr. Phil. in philosophy in 1969 from the University of Kiel, Germany, and has been habilitated as a lecturer by the Department of Philosophy and Social Sciences of the Freie Universitt Berlin in 1973. His research interests include issues of applied epistemology and applied political philosophy. He has published books and articles in this field in German, French, British, Portuguese and international journals and revierws. From 1994 to 1999 he has been a member of the European Parliament for the German Green party.

Copyright 2005 Inderscience Enterprises Ltd.


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A whole arsenal of empirical studies is publicly accessible today on the politics and the cultural prospects of the enlarged EU, as it now exist since May 2004. The first recent history studies on the processes leading from the old Soviet bloc to the present constellation of situations have been published. Transformation and Transition analysis has been a richly tilled field in the last decade. And yet the political conclusions reached by the debate tend to repeat simple evidences like that the upcoming enlargement of the European Union has important consequences also for environmental policy making which need to be dealt with in a strategic manner (Meulemann et al., 2003, p.24). There seems to be something amiss in our understanding of these processes, which, further detailed research will not help us to overcome. It is not easy to put your finger to it. It will rather require some re-thinking of the issues under scrutiny. This is what I propose in this paper. I shall indicate some main alleys for re-thinking the very underlying notions with which we tend to think about the situation with regard to the large enlargement of 2004, especially scrutinising the notions of transition and transformation I shall develop some new questions to be asked on the basis of renewed underlying notions of political interventions into historical processes, especially for asking for the specific historical paths of development of the respective countries before, during, and after their period of Soviet dominance I shall present some arguments, why these variegated situations in the history of new member countries or future accession countries present, at once, a specific challenge and a significant chance for an approach in terms of a complex and integrated strategy of sustainable development, allowing for many specific strategies to be implicit in one overarching and second order strategy defining a practice of governance for sustainable development.

Underlying notions concerning current thinking on enlargement

Much of our current thinking on enlargement, referring to the process by which the EU of 15 became the EU of 25, is deeply bound to categories and notions steeped, as it were, in fordist thinking, i.e., in a political engineering perspective, neglecting diversity, disintegrating complex totalities and over-simplifying the tasks of political regulation. Paradoxically, this is no less true for the neo-liberal type of political thinking which postulated the end of the fordist illusions: In its simplification of complex issues of historical development to the long-term efficacy of market mechanisms it has invited conceptions of political strategy systematically underestimating the complexity of the challenges to be met. It is high time to have a critical look at them and to overcome at least their more obvious limitations and shortcomings for coming to grips with the present processes. The intellectual uneasiness concerning our current thinking on this historical change begins with its elementary underlying notions like capitalism, socialism (or, for that matter, social system), which do not seem to be properly applicable to the really

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existing historical societies CEE and CIS countries in their motley composition and their historical diversity in spite of some abstract coincidences due to the far-reaching efforts of the COMECON to redefine the international division of labour between its member states by means of planning co-ordination and long-term production agreements. It extends, then, to the very notions of transformation and transition, which seem to refer to a presumed knowledge about starting-points as well as about end-points which does not seem to be really available in any scientifically acceptable way. It should apply, as well, to the ideas existing about the interaction of structures and subjectivities within such processes. The historical period stretching from the end of the 1980s to the present, has widely been perceived, with regard to the Central and Eastern European Countries (CEE) and the CIS countries, as a difficult and uncertain phase in between two clearly defined realities, centrally planned economies viz. socialism (or communism, this distinction is irrelevant here) on the one hand, forming the starting point, and market economies (or open societies or capitalism; these differences of conceptual approach are again irrelevant at this point of our argument), defining the target to be reached.1 It is, however, quite evident that the apparent simplicity of this approach is based upon a double illusion: that any historical society can be adequately defined by one elementary social relation (while all the rest of social realities are supposedly determined by its derived relations). Such an elementary social relation could be, for instance, the relation between the free, but dependent labourers and the entrepreneurs who are, in principle, willing to buy their working-power and to put it to good use, or the existence (or even dominance) of one specific mechanism of economic co-ordination, such as market competition and central planning. Individual historical societies, however, never are just one social system, defined by one main characteristic, they always exist as an uneasy, and unstable, constellation of more specific systems or structures, or in a less static, more dynamic perspective, of several overlapping processes, in which different kinds of social relations are reproduced in parallel. When one begins to really think about this matter, therefore, an inversion of perspectives seems to impose itself: Instead of beginning by constructing a general case in which these countries first made the transition from capitalism to socialism, and then back again from socialism to capitalism; then trying to understand the great variety of their real historical processes as specific modifications of such a general case, an inversion of perspective would invite us to analyse, as a first step, how these societies, considered as rather variegated configurations of social relations which did not really possess any common denominator except geographical contiguity have been impacted since 1917, or since the 1940s, by a politics and by policies of socialist transition; then again, since some point in the 1980s, by a politics and policies of capitalist transition. This change of perspective would give us far less occasion to a priori reasoning, prone as it is to ideologies and dogmatic evidences. It would rather prompt us to consider the historical processes, as they happened in fact to occur. It would not, at least not automatically, let us fall into the trap of mere empiricism, refusing any structural or tendency analysis going beyond considerations of mere common-sense, with its underlying leanings towards uncritical conformism. If we consider the historical experience of the 20th century, as it has been made by and within the new member countries or the future accession countries, in such an inverted perspective, two major issues immediately leap to the eye, which have been very important in some, but far less important, if not non-existent, in other societies of the


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CEE or CIS countries. These are the issues of the social relations within rural society (effective role of big landowners, free peasants, small peasants, and rural labourers) and the relative presence and weight of the old aristocracy, the new bourgeoisie, or a specific class of state functionaries within the state apparatus. Of course, both issues are intimately related to the problem of how well the modernisation process had been started and achieved, as well as to the question of nationalities and their nation building processes, or as to the question of the relations existing between government institutions and civil society within their countries political culture. These issues have not only been determinant for the kind of intervention areas which these societies have offered to the politics and policies of socialist transition, they also have, certainly in changed, but in many respects persisting ways, defined the possible openings, existing later on, for politics and policies of capitalist transition within the societies of these countries. Instead of one homogeneous starting point, and of one homogeneous target point, the inverted perspective I am proposing here, makes us see a wide variety of starting points, as well as a very broad spectrum of possible and probable arrival areas for the societies under consideration. This could induce a more concrete consideration of really available options, instead of trying to think out, as it were, in our armchairs, what would have been, and what will be, the one best way to cope with the problem. This is an advantage which some will think is dearly bought but really coming to terms with what is, and not what we imagine or wish for, always is considered an indication of growing up. We should certainly grow up in our thinking about the CEE and CIS societies. This also opens up the possibility of perceiving new problem areas like the emergence of subterraneous black economies controlled by mafia-like structures of micro-exploitation, of rural depressed areas depleted of all young people looking for their own perspective in life, or the rise of new urban slums mostly inhabited by a new informal proletariat comparable to recent developments in Latin America or in the Southern Mediterranean countries. And it would thereby help us to anticipate possible rifts of social cohesion along new breaking lines of exclusion and discrimination which threatens to block all paths of development, which could potentially reduce the unsustainability of present situations. The ingrained, as if ready-made, notions of capitalism vs. socialism (or the idea of an abstract social system existing independently from the concrete conditions and contingencies of time and space) are not the only intellectual predicaments besetting much of the research on the recent trajectory of the new Eastern member states. The same is true for the very notions of transformation and transition itself. Their underlying metaphors of the metamorphosis achieved by the old form being replaced by the new one in the case of transformation or of a passage (via a bridge, a barge, or a ford) over a river in the case of transition, not only induce us to think about them in terms of a passing fluidity between two fixities the perfect form in the first case, and the dry land in the second. It also ascribes a problematic teleological orientation and a dubiously sharp delimitation to the processes under consideration themselves: In each moment in time, following these metaphors, it should be clear to which aims and objectives they are effectively striving, and it should be no less clear which real events effectively take part in this historical process and which events are no more than irrelevant detours or sideways. This is, however, clearly illusionary: Such clear-cut definitions always tend to give way, over time, to other such definitions which turn out to be quite incompatible with them, but nonetheless, again, are vividly seen as being self-evident in their own

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time, while real life, effective social practices, develop in other ways, as it were behind the backs of people clinging to such simplifications. Here, too, an analogous inversion of perspective seems to be helpful: Instead of simply assuming that such processes like transition or transformation dominate the real life of the societies in which they take place, or at least are permeating it in its totality, we should, then, accept that they can realistically be only analysed as a bundle of politics and policies impacting upon the primary living processes of their societies. This would certainly heighten our awareness for other factors, conditions, and contingencies. It would not, however, make us simply submerge in the infinite diversity of contingent realities: We should rather have to face the task to determine, by analysis, in which aspects and to what degree such politics and policies have, in actual historical fact, succeeded in imprinting a specific focus upon real social processes. As far as the history of the analysis of given societies is realised in such a way, it does not lead to a generalised historical relativism, by which no knowledge about historical situations is thought to be possible, which is relevant to strategic action. On the contrary, it includes two distinct dimensions of a systematic analysis in terms of relations and structures of society, or, respectively, in terms of the strategic systematic policies. The addressing of structural constellations as constitutive elements of historically specific societies, located in space and time: specific nature-society, or gender relations as a historical framework for historically varying societies, as well as elementary, structured relations underlying a broad variety of concrete societies. The structured character of encompassing strategies of political intervention, like the fordist intervention, or the policies constituting neo-liberal strategies or for that matter of Stalinist state socialism, or other historical variants of socialist strategies of political intervention in given societies.

Such an approach is contrary to a number of current simplifications, but it is certainly not drowning analysis in an infinite and illimitable complexity. Instead of trying to implement an abstract model following other such models in a historical sequence, stretching from the US New Deal via the Swedish Middle Way, the Dutch Polder Model or the South Korean tiger economy such an approach would lead us rather, to asking which strategic approach could bring forth the specific potential of a given society as a whole and in its various components. And it should therefore motivate us to inquire specifically for the innovative potential of those neglected and marginalised by present economic strategies, trying to understand the many economic miracles in fact hidden in the non-events of the not-breaking-down of local and regional economies, as well as in the creative survival of many hard-pressed strata of societies, or in the unpredictable breakthroughs of some winners, seemingly coming from nowhere. Such an inversion of perspectives should also liberate us from the false problem of trying to choose between an analysis in terms of transition and one in terms of transformation without throwing us back to an analysis of the exceedingly abstract level of social change only. Instead, we could develop the intuitive differences between approaches in terms of transition, which tend to emphasise flows, processes and significant quantities (e.g., threshold values) and approaches in terms of transformation, which tend to put an emphasis upon looking at forms and structures as qualitatively determined entities in a consciously controlled way. By analysing dynamic, over-determined, and partly contingent processes in terms of transition as well as of


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transformation, we should arrive at grasping a more complete picture of what is really going on, while at the same time developing a better grasp of the unavoidable differences between the conceptual apparatus of an evaluation or process control (transition) and the notions needed for an adequate strategic agenda and target setting (transformation), as well as a better understanding of their respective meanings. This would allow us to transcend dogmatic quibbles over the primacy of economics (mostly transition-oriented) or of politics (mostly transformation-oriented) of this historical period, which we do not seem to have left behind so far. Instead we could begin to understand how economics and politics may complement each other in responding to and coping with complex historical configurations within distinct and profoundly different societies. Likewise, the rather simplistic question of how to find one best way for all can be seen as erroneous. It is not certain that there is just one best solution for each concrete case (even from mathematics we do know that there may be an infinity of optima), and there certainly is no solution which is the best one for each and every case (one size fits all). Much of the present debates on the experience of the 1990s within these countries are haunted by simplified, often subterraneous models of anthropology from the homo sovieticus of theoretical Stalinism, via the respective ideas of the homo nationalis of each nation state and nationality, to the idea of a universally applicable homo oeconomicus. Instead, the question of agency should be asked in real historical terms: What have been the terms under which historical figures have risen to prominence and under which social movements have they built their political efficacy? Which social categories, which types of individuals have taken part in significant actions, and why and with what kind of understanding did they do it in terms of articulated interests or of political projects? This would presuppose a careful reconstruction of the societal milieus of the respective countries, bridging class positions with cultural traditions or innovations in actual social reality. This would provide us with the tools for a structural historical analysis of agency in the recent and contemporary history in all the states of the enlarged EU, which could overcome the simplifications of class-reductionism, methodical individualism and national collectivism. Such a historical analysis would begin to allow for a non-normative analysis of the real processes by which democratic cleavages and relations of forces have been shaped and have been changed during these years.

New questions to be asked about the processes and perspectives of the enlarged EU

The inversion of perspective which I am proposing would help us to understand the present situation as a moment in an on-going history, instead of trying to reduce it to necessarily under-complex models. It would help us to generate a rather different set of questions to be asked, with better chances to be answered on the basis of the existing empirical results and observations. At the same time it would help us to understand that we are confronted by two groups of rather open historical search processes, the outcome of which is still to be determined, instead of just one: The old 15 member states are no less engaged in a process of trying to stabilise new patterns of at least provisional solutions to their internal conflicts and tensions than the acceding ten new countries. Both groups are rather far from knowing where they are heading exactly, although they

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very probably, still are conserving illusions on how far they are able to foresee and to shape their own future paths of development. The need for concretely identifying the family resemblance which held most of the countries of the later Soviet block together in the first place, and for more concretely identifying the kind of modern bourgeois society dominated by the capitalist mode of production (as Marx has formulated his terms of description) these societies are developing into, makes us ask some theoretically instructive questions. All these questions relate to structures and processes specifically located in time and space. Firstly, there is a number of questions concerning the respective origins and starting points of these societies. Which are the common aspects which have made it possible that these societies could follow a shared trajectory at least in political terms for the period of history which began in the early 20th century? This question leads us to a number of related questions: on the periodisation of modern history in itself, as well on the relevance of such a common periodisation for the analysis of the economic, social and cultural processes as well as the politics of the CEE and CIS countries on our understanding of the worldwide crisis from 1914 to 1945 and its impact on the specific societies of the present CEE and CIS countries on the bifurcations in the historical paths of development, where common or comparable turns of the CEE and CIS diverged from the trajectory of Western European countries.

Secondly, there are a number of questions concerning the Soviet Period of politics within these societies: on our analysis of the relative consolidation paths of the CEE and CIS countries during the glorious 30 years from roughly 1950 to equally roughly 1970, with special regard to their typical models of accumulation on the relative divergences and convergences of the concrete trajectories of political regulation regimes assumed by the CEE and CIS countries, and on their relative continuity within and after their Soviet period of development on our understanding of the impacts of the world-wide structural crisis from the 1970s to the present on the CEE and CIS countries, which have brought an end to almost all forms of state socialism in the East, while at the same time forcing the demise of the hegemonic political model of fordism in the West.

Thirdly, on the broad spectrum of economic and political changes, which have taken place in these countries since the middle of the 1980s. on the agency and orientation underlying the social movements and the historical constellation of political forces, which have shaped the specific paths of transition to different patterns of capital accumulation and the individual patterns of transformation towards new regimes of regulation on the present perspectives of a stabilising new model of development as it seemed to emerge in the middle of the 1990s with the New Economy which will take the succession of fordism as a hegemonic model for a compatible and reproducible


F.O. Wolf configuration of social relations, and the accessibility of such a model for the CEE and CIS countries, and of the role the Rio commitments for sustainable development and the ensuing definitions of strategies (by the EU, by its member states, by other nation-states, or on the UN level) have placed and can play in the future in shaping converging, or compatible paths of developments for these societies

on the different and diverging searching processes of CEE and CIS countries to find their ways to be fitted in into this global dynamics on the ways in which the main political global players have reacted to the failure of the New Economy, and to the emergence of new factors undermining the guarantees of peace and stability seemingly implicit in the military hegemony of the USA

Such an analysis will not be easily reducible to typical structures and processes. Its tendency to present concrete historical developments as a contingent results of a continuous struggle between opposing interests will, however, have the merit of forcing us to look at these processes concretely enough to be able to see the individual decisions taken and pushed through by specific subjects thereby giving us the need and the capability to enter into an open dialogue with the subjective forces really at work. A good example in case seems to be the well-researched area of rather different privatisation strategies (and effectively followed paths) applied by different countries ranging from the Russian or Hungarian forms of Nomenklatura privatisation via different types of voucher privatisation (as in the Czech Republic) up to the de facto strategies focussed on building new small and medium enterprise sectors alongside a gradually decaying sector of ex-state-owned big enterprise. On the other hand, it remains an interesting problem, to be researched more specifically, why it has been possible to agree on a big bang enlargement among the old member states. At least three groups of different and largely opposing, if not antagonistic motivations seem to have existed here: a notion of using the accession of new member states as a lever of changing the EU from a trans-national structure of integrated political regulation (including flexible modes, like mutual recognition or the principle of country of origin) into a almost purely economic free-trade area an idea of using the crises of accession adaptation to be expected (on both sides) as a lever for reinforcing this very momentum of political integration (in its regulatory as well as in its financial dimension) the concept of using the dynamics of big-bang accession in order to accelerate the searching processes for new patterns of accumulation as well as for new paradigms of regulation within the entire newly enlarged EU.

Although these attitudes are not equidistant to actual reality it seems to be evident that they are approaching reality in an ascending order none of them is without any foundation in re. As they are basically incompatible, their future relevancy will be determined by decisions still to be taken, by convictions, attitudes and patterns of activity still to be developed. The very change of perspective, I am proposing here, seems to facilitate our looking at the actual options considered by the really existing stakeholders, instead of remaining captive to the rumblings of some spirits from the past.

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The notions of sustainable development and of sustainability strategy as a chance and as a challenge to the enlarged EU

The notions of sustainable development and of sustainability strategy are at once fuzzy or malleable enough to lend themselves to perversion, and flexible or innovative enough to offer an important chance of serving as intellectual tools for really coming to grips with a radically new, and complex historical situation. They are anchored in materially distinctive processes in the different dimensions of sustainable development without being reducible to them; and they are addressing the overarching complexity of the real living processes of historical societies without lapsing into a loss of specific orientation. This unique combination of properties has made it possible for a number of CEE and CIS countries to take them on board within their own political language and agendas with the ambiguous effect of adopting lip-service attitudes together with a technocratic stream-lining of administrative practices, while at the same time, and sometimes within the same processes, developing truly innovative and democratically promising practices. Their lack of really clear delimitations, however, lays them also open to tactics of intentional abusing without openly declared conflicts which can only be countered by co-operation and dialogue with those constructively participating in the very processes of using historical change and societal reproduction as an occasion for implementing strategies of sustainable development. However, sustainability is not merely about natural limits and technological possibilities, nor about institionalised political action and programmes; it is about overall proportions within the life processes of societies considered and reflected in an integrated way. There has to be an effective politics of sustainability, which holds up certain spontaneous outcomes and developments, and pushes through others, against the power structures and interests that hinder its implementation. This goes further than the task of adequately co-ordinating sectorally divided state action, by appealing to the actions of the dynamic forces of societies themselves. For this reason, sustainable development as an idea cannot ignore the debates by advocates of radical social change since the 19th century, about amelioration vs. reform vs. revolution where the last two share a view of the need for structural system changes. Also on the agenda of sustainability politics is the still unresolved political issue of how alliances at the base of society, held together by the common objective to push through changes in the structures of a given society, can be held together without fragmenting into mutually destructive competitors. Sustainability, if deepened as an integrative concept, can contribute to the overcoming of these kinds of fragmentations. It can more specifically function as an effective antidote to the factors of additional fragmentation inherent in the disciplinary division of the underlying scientific research, by adding new factual dimensions to the development of what could be called trans-disciplinary bridge discourses, in which single achievements would be understandable in their larger context and, therefore, more visibly relevant to actual social or political practice. This can provide, among other things, the necessary basis for a joint and common practice between those working for ameliorative goals, those working from a reform standpoint, and the revolutionaries. The notion of sustainable development gives a new factual content to the old debate on the extent of social change possible and needed simply by drawing attention to the importantly irreversible1 effects of environmental, social, economic and institutional deterioration and the long-term consequences of doing nothing in the present. It now appears irresponsible to put off, until after a revolutionary structural transformation,


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getting on with what can be done nowas an irreversible deterioration closes off future options. The task is rather, to find the means of relating the single and smaller changes to the larger ones, in their possible mutual relations and in the way they may consecutively build upon each other, i.e., properly speaking, to define a strategy of development capable of being implemented by political initiatives. This double-sided process of addressing urgent specific issues while at the same time extending the scope of comprehensive social change, in the way needed, to avoid a closing up of future possibilities relates to two properties of sustainability strategy approaches which could aptly be termed as their openness to contingent inputs and their variability according to contextual constellations. Both these properties harbour a real danger of perverting sustainability strategies into mere ancillaries of strong power effects, while at the same time offering an important chance of adequate responses to highly diverse situations within a still common strategic framework. The very fragility of the notions of sustainable development and of sustainability strategy seems to make them more adequate to historical situations of uncertainty, in which no teleology can be defined, and where possible future solutions still have to be invented, in the original meaning of the word: found and made up as such. In order to turn this potential of these notions into a real chance or even a capability, however, two decisive things are required: Not to lose hold of the material bearings, in environmental, economic, and social terms, by which these notions are distinguished from mere dialectical meta-notions, and furthermore, learning to distinguish, at each step to be taken, between what we might think to be, and what really is, possible. And as there is no obligation to do the impossible, there likewise is no really defendable possibility of demanding the impossible as a fine-sounding alternative to the present state of affairs: a sustainability strategy may demand a very thorough-going restructuring indeed, but it never can ask for more to be done in each step than is humanly possible. In other words, it is certainly gradualist, but not limited to simple technical ameliorations in its scope: all structures of society, all institutions, and all patterns of nature-humans interaction may come into its scope, and be changed provided they have a clearly established incidence on the possibilities open for human development. That there is presently, little looking into the efficiency and efficacy of market mechanisms is no more than a hang-over from the market-optimism of the late 1990s and the debates of trans-national roles of states outside geopolitical and military activities is also certainly bound to surface again.


The future of the sustainability strategy within the enlarged EU seems to hinge on one question: how far will it be possible to intertwine productive societal searching processes generated from different, and even diverging historical backgrounds into a new web and pattern of a synergetic meta-searching process which may not be able to generate a hegemonic political model of relative stability again, as it had been constituted by fordism after a 30 year crisis (including two World Wars). It may, however, realistically aim at generating a model of meta-stability, capable of relating to its own crises, avoiding major damage, and making ever new transformations, transitions, and searching processes possible, which will keep options open to societies under stress; keeping democratic choices meaningful and avoiding military confrontations. Such a

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model could be provided, on the one hand, by the internal workings of the newly enlarged EU which will only be able to develop constructively, if it takes this broad direction, while it could serve as a model of a non-confrontative de-facto alternative to the global actions of the USA, simply by giving a lasting priority to all instruments of meta-stability over the instruments of confrontation and decision by the one who prevails in the struggle, i.e., by consistently giving priority to the UN system, to conflict resolution by negotiation and mediation, to rules and institutions in international relations. Empirically, the additional complexity brought into the politics of the new member states by having to refer to a complex, multi-dimensional sustainability strategy can function as an incentive to seriously thematise dimensions of policy, like environmental problems or problems of social cohesion, which had been marginalised in earlier phases of a transition process conceived in a one-dimensional manner. The same additional complexity may, in other cases, have the effect of further de-thematising achievements of intellectual liberty, ecological awareness or social solidarity which had been important in the first moments of opening the transition process (like in the case of Charta 66 in Czechoslovakia, Ecoglasnost in Bulgaria, or of Solidarnosc in Poland) and had left at least some imprint on the ensuing paths of development giving its politics a more liberal, more environmentalist, or more conservative basic colouring. This additional complexity may, if nothing constructive is done about it on the EU level itself, help to create a political void, stifling concrete initiatives, and thereby establishing false technological fixes for real problems (as nuclear energy for climate relevant gas emissions). If on the other hand, the awareness of the complexity inherent in any meaningful sustainability strategy is not transferred adequately into the national debates of all member states, with an ensuing change of orientations in the hegemonic rich countries which spontaneously function as models of the good life, there is an unavoidable danger of a European race towards increasing unsustainability, which a formalised sustainability strategy will be unable even to slow down: Trans-national keeping up with Joneses will keep the newly rich strata, as well as the middle classes which are providing the dominant non-traditionalist role-models within concrete societies busy with reaching what is considered to be a one-dimensional definition of wealth, without heeding the environmental, social or institutional dimensions of sustainability. Probably, the decisive elements in this ambiguous situation will be an improved scientific understanding of the problems involved in the complex definition and implementation of specific strategies of developing the sustainability of concrete societies, on the one hand, and improved institutional arrangements and procedures for taking on board, innovative practices and experiences as they have emerged at the breaking points and at the fringes of the established structures and constellations of given societies in the diverse restructuring processes undergone by the societies of old as well as of new member states of the EU since the 1960s. This could open the way to mutual learning processes focussing on innovative practices without neglecting their generating contexts and conditions of efficacy, as it is often done in identifying best practices defined as models for imitation. It will be an interesting task of a second order governance defining a sustainability strategy to identify to unearth and to revive those innovative lines and traditions within the CEE and CIS countries which are specifically related to such an attitude of looking for windows of opportunity for concrete moves approaching objectives of


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sustainable development. It will be a decisive element of such a practice of sustainability governance to look systematically and comprehensively for a constructive alternative to the unilateralism of the leading powers and hegemonic strata which have defined the simplified models in place. Such a kind of governance for sustainable development will have to give considerable care to a parallel dimension of continuously reflecting and identifying the limits and conditions of such an innovative approach to the tasks of transformation and transition which can be defined by a concrete strategy of sustainable development adequate to the historical situation of the specific country, instead of relying on false universalities or generalisations, the limits of which have already become glaringly apparent in the political processes of a number of those countries; in the failure of one-sided and over-simplified strategies to achieve balanced results. Trying to simply do the opposite of the Stalinist political interventions of their common past cannot constitute an adequate starting point for a strategy of sustainable development in any of the new member states or in the future accession countries.

Meuleman, L., Niestroy, I. and Hey, C. (Eds.) (2003) Environmental Governance in Europe, Den Haag.

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There are specific forms of irreversibility in all the dimensions of sustainability their difference mainly reside in the time horizon they refer to, while institutional matters seem to be measurable in periods of legislature, economic matters (like strategic investments) in decades, and sociocultural matters in generations, i.e., time spans of about 30 years, environmental degradation opens a time horizon referring to geological or to evolutionary time spans.