"The Advantages of Underdevelopment? The Politics of Second-Generation Economic Reform in the ‘New’ Europe"


Location: 214 DeBartolo Hall


How can we explain the second wave of radical economic policies (notably flat tax reforms) that have spread through much of postcommunist Europe in the last several years? Surprisingly, such reforms are now being pioneered by those countries considered laggards of the first-generation, market-making reforms in the 1990s. I argue that party system institutionalization offers the best explanation for who adopts such second-generation reforms, to what degree, and when.
Such institutionalization, which enhances vertical accountability between governments and voters, puts state reformers at a disadvantage in enacting second-generation reforms. By making it difficult to create a coherent and credible opposition against reform, underinstitutionalization insulates state reformers from social and political pressures, allowing them to undertake economic policies hard to envision in a more developed democracy. I test this hypothesis by comparing recent reform attempts in the new EU member-states of postcommunist Europe.


Conor O’Dwyer is an assistant professor of Political Science and European Studies at the University of Florida. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley in December 2003. In 2003-4 and 2006-2007, he was appointed an Academy Scholar at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. His book Runaway State-Building: Patronage Politics and Democratic Development (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006) examines the relationship between party-building and state-building in new democracies, looking specifically at the relationship between party competition and patronage politics in postcommunist Eastern Europe. In his current research, he is exploring how the expansion of the European Union is changing the terrain of domestic politics and policy-making in the postcommunist member-states–from the emergence of flat-tax economic reforms to the evolution of norms regarding the rights and protections of sexual minorities.

Sponsored by Russian and East European Studies and the Nanovic Institute for European Studies.