ABSTRACT

The social origin, recruitment and careers of the new economic elite were an area of intensive research in the 1990s. The international comparative study on elites, ‘Social Stratification in East Central Europe after 1989’, contributed significantly to the understanding of continuity and change in post-socialist elites, focusing particularly on Hungary and Poland. 1 Using a reference period of 1993/1994, it studied the first generation of economic elite after the regime change. It was not just the classic question of elite circulation vs reproduction over the course of the regime change that was asked, but also questions on the formation of a new social class of ‘grande bourgeoisie’ and a new system of property ownership. Particular attention was paid to the continuing role of ‘nomenklatura’. This means examining whether political capital is transformed on a large scale into economic capital. With the increasing influence of western multinational companies on the key sectors of the economies of Central Europe, interest in the indigenous economic elites dwindled, as they were now seen as relevant as a factor of power only insofar as they operated as a part of the ‘comprador service sector’ of foreign investors (Drahokoupil 2008). Thus we know little about the business leaders in the consolidated market economies of Poland and Hungary, termed ‘foreign-led’ or ‘dependent market economies’ (see Chapter 1).