Katrin Mattusch, Demokratisierung im Baltikum? Über die Begrenzung von Demokratisierungschancen durch politischen Kulturen. Frankfurt/Main, Berlin, New York: Peter Lang, 1996. [Europäische Holhschulschriften, 309] Paper. 276 pp. $54.95.
The author's training in the East German system and in Moscow is in evidence, but even more obvious is her reflection of effort by sociological theorists and practioners to adjust to the massive political and intellectual changes of recent years. In studying the Baltic she hopes to discover insights applicable to the entire post-Soviet world. This is the key to understanding her somewhat pessimistic title, because as far as the text goes, the answer was evident from the beginning.
The first chapter contains an explication of theory, especially the poncept of political culture, the second the special characteristics of political culture in soviet society. Boiled down to essentials: the contradictions of the public sector led to disappointment and apathy, while the private sector concerned itself with traditional values and concerns. The following chapter argues that the special characteristic of the Baltic is the emphasis on an individualism rooted in the traditional westward-looking culture and economy. Mattusch investigates the complications created by history and immigration in the the Baltic States, finding that Lithuania is strongly influenced by religion, Estonia and Latvia by Enlightenment rationality and a greater emphasis on individuality, with Estonia well ahead in all phases of these developments. All this is based on polling data laid out in charts that require little German to read and interpret.
Mattusch next studies three characteristics that she believes provide a foundation for the local political culture: 1) for the traditional dimension: religiosity; 2) for the state socialism dimension: collective rights (kollektivistischen Versorgungansprüche); 3) for the new national state demension: awareness of the political processes (politische Lernfähigkeit). Many charts later we are told that Estonians have the most individualistic political culture, the most tolerance, and the least tendency toward authoritarianism; Lithuanians have a strong collectivist culture, is more authoritarian, put less trust in other persons, and are skeptical about innovation; Latvians have more mixed attitudes.
What are the chances for democracy in the Baltic States? That depends, she says, on how swiftly and efficiently changes are made in the economic system through eliminating state subsidies, price controls, state corporations, and by instituting tax programs, modernizing the infrastructure, and creating a new net of social security programs. In this Estonia is ahead, Lithuania next, and then Latvia (except in the important area of banking, in which it may become the regional center). In the long run the outlook for the Baltic States is very good. Much better than for most of the other post-Soviet, non-Russian successor states.