This study starts from the assumption that an important requirement for the success of democratic consolidation in postcommunist countries is that citizens accept the two defining dimensions of the new regime, democracy and market economy, and the values associated with these. Since these are main components of the political culture, a series of important questions arise: How does political culture change? Is there a single political culture, or are there different patterns of political culture? How do these patterns evolve over time? How can these patterns and their evolution be explained? The project analyzes these issues by studying the Romanian political culture from the beginning of the transition to the present time. To answer these questions I use seventeen years (from 1990 to 2006) of data which will allow me to identify the different patterns of political culture in Romania and to explain their evolution over time.
The study contributes to the literature in several ways. First, while previous studies have focused either on a single country and a single point in time or on a group of countries and a single point in time, this study analyzes political culture change over a long period of time. The results of such an endeavor add a temporal dimension, which was not addressed in previous studies, to our understanding of political culture in postcommunist countries.
Second, while most of the existing literature studied political culture in postcommunist countries during the initial stage of the transition process (there are only a few studies that go beyond 1995), this project analyzes political culture change during the whole process of transition to democracy and market economy. The findings will indicate whether the relationships among different components of political culture identified in previous studies continue to hold, or whether they were context-specific, depending on a particular stage during the transition.
Finally, the study of Romanian political culture by itself is a minor contribution to the literature. In the field of postcommunist transitions Romania is an understudied country, scholars focusing rather on the successful countries of the region (i.e. the Czech Republic, Hungary, or Poland) or on countries considered important from a policy perspective (Russia, FSU). Since Romania may be considered a representative case for the group of countries that had a late and troublesome transition (i.e. Bulgaria, Romania, and Ukraine) the project will fill a gap in our knowledge about troubled transitions and about the region.
By focusing on the attitudes of the citizens, this study aims at recognizing the important role society has in transitions to democracy and addresses “the missing agenda” (Clark 2002) in the postcommunist transitions literature.