chapter  15
Beyond transition
Rethinking elite configurations in the Balkans
BySteven Sampson
Pages 20

The study of Eastern European societies has been plagued by our adherence to concepts. Before 1989, we studied ‘socialist societies’. After 1989 these became ‘transition’ or ‘postsocialist’ societies (Hann 1994). Postsocialist societies became a general variant of ‘transitology’, in which the transition to democracy familiar to us from Latin America and Southern Europe was now linked to transition from a state-planned to a market economy. As the label for an entire epoch, ‘postsocialism’ has been helpful for several reasons. It serves to remind us that the socialist past is very much a part of the after-socialist present. It was also a convenient label, since its vagueness allowed us to escape the task of periodizing. Concepts such as ‘postsocialism’ and ‘transition’ have trickled down from transitological theorizing to everyday parlance. For our informants, these terms signify some kind of journey to a better life, and have been used by them as emic labels in trying to comprehend their own realities.