Electronic Library of Scientific Literature - © Academic Electronic Press


CONTENTS 3/1999, p. 225-320
OBSAH 3/1999, s. 225-320



Book Reviews

Post-Communist Transformation and the New Elite in Slovakia

Ákos Róna-Tas - Ján Bunčák - Valentína Harmadyová

University of California, San Diego - Department of Sociology FF UK, Bratislava - The Institute for Sociology the Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava

Post-Communist Transformation and the New Elite in Slovakia. For the new elite, we mapped in the years 1997-1998 the current national offices and interviewed sample of those offices holders. To find the new economic elite, we obtained a list of the largest 2000 companies, measured by total sales, and interviewed the chief executive officer. For our old economic elite we took a random sample of the old nomenclatura by identifying the people in the country who held nomenclatura positions in 1988. The two economic elites are comparable, since the economic nomenklatura included primarily manager of large companies. For comparison, we used an elite survey conducted in the Czech Republic in 1993.

Analysis and comparisons of our data give opportunity to answer some basic theoretical hypotheses about emerging of new elite in Slovakia:
- Demographic composition. (In the economic elite women gained some ground. The new economic elite is significantly youngest than political and cultural elite.)
- Circulation vs. Reproduction. (Most of the newcomers to the new economic elite came from the group of professionals. They are relatively few people in the new economic elite, who was part of the political leadership in 1988.)
- Power conversion. (The Czech and Slovak difference reflects an important divergence between the two countries. In the Czech Republic, members of the last Communist nomenclature were squeezed out of political life. In Slovakia, the Meciar government has never been that hostile to ex-Communists.)
- Technocratic advance. (The new economic elite is more likely to have degrees in the natural and social sciences and humanities, but these are less common degrees overall than engineering, law and business.)
- Interrupted embourgeoisement. (The new economic elite comes from the best educated pre-Communist families followed by the new cultural elite and then the new political elite. Despite years of discrimination against large and small capitalists, efforts to eliminate pre-Communist educational privileges and to suppress national differences within Slovakia, these distinctions survived and now resurface after more than four decades.)

Sociológia 1999, Vol. 31 (No. 3: 235-262)

Poor People - Poor Life Stories?
(Ordinary and Extraordinary in Life-History Narratives)

Zuzana Kusá

The Institute for Sociology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava

Poor People - Poor Life Stories? This paper presents a methodological discussion of the quality of the life through narratives collected in the project ”Social History of Poverty in Slovakia” from the Winter of 1995-1996. The stories were narrated by family members of the economically and socially marginalised families. This discussion tries to trace the roots of broken hopes that accompany the research objective; that is, to use life histories as an access to the dialectics of social opportunities and life strategies of the families under study. First, the discussion aims at the problem of narrative ‘thinness’ that is, on the absence of thick descriptions of ordinary activities in the collected narratives. Then it focuses on narrative constructions of the categories of "ordinary" and "extraordinary", as well as their use in self-description (or identity construction) of the narrators. Special attention has been given to the collective representations used in this process. The author discusses the hypothesis that the collected life-history narratives can bee seen as a performance aimed at "proving" one's inclusion into social majority and to distance oneself (and one's family) from the "deviant" label.

Sociológia 1999, Vol. 31 (No. 3: 263-290)

Will Slovakia’s SMEs Pass the Quality Test?

Kenneth Roberts - Collette Fagan

Department of Sociology, Liverpool

Ladislav Macháček

Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava

Will Slovakia’s SMEs Pass the Quality Test? This paper assesses trends and policies in Slovakia up to 1999 in the context of evidence about the development of, and the problems faced by, SMEs throughout East-Central Europe. The new evidence about the wider East-Central European situation is from interviews in 1997 with 400 young (aged up to 30) self-employed people, and parallel studies of the support being offered to the self-employed by state services and non-governmental organisations (NGOS), in four East-Central European countries (Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia). The samples were representative of the New East’s better-established young business people. Nevertheless, nearly all their enterprises were very basic. Such small businesses were the main source of employment growth in East-Central Europe in the 1990s, but they have simultaneously become part of the region’s main labour market problems. Unemployment remains stubbornly high largely because many of those concerned are reluctant to accept and settle in the low quality jobs that small businesses offer. The evidence presented in this paper explains why, in turn-of-the-century conditions, the New East’s new businesses are in danger of becoming locked into low-productivity, low wage niches. It is argued that the prospects of the new market economies in the twenty-first century depend partly on their ability to promote the development of their more capable SMEs into quality businesses. The measures required to achieve this are identified, and are used as benchmarks for assessing Slovakia’s progress.

Sociológia 1999, Vol. 31 (No. 3: 291-306)

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