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Comparative Democracy Seminar: Communism's Shadow: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Political Attitudes


April 20, 2017
4:15pm - 5:30pm
Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Suite 200N, 124 Mt Auburn Street, Cambridge
April 20, 2017
4:15pm - 5:30pm
Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Suite 200N, 124 Mt Auburn Street, Cambridge

Scholars have long assumed that “legacies” from prior regimes have an important impact on what follows, and perhaps no more so than in the case of the post-communist successor states following the 45-70 year history of Soviet Communism. Prior research, however, has focused largely on the effect of legacies on political and economic institutions. Communism’s Shadow represents the first systematic attempt to assess the effect of legacies in a rigorous, comparative, and falsifiable framework on the attitudes of post-communist citizens towards fundamental questions of politics, economic, and social relations.

The authors introduce two distinct frameworks for explaining attitudinal differences between post-communist citizens and those in the rest of the world. Drawing on large-scale cross-national survey research projects encompassing both the post-communist world and countries around the globe, supplemented by new collections of aggregate level data, the authors demonstrate that despite the many characteristics that differentiate life in a post-communist country from life elsewhere, actually living through communism has a clear and consistent effect on explaining why citizens in post-communist countries are, on average, less supportive of democracy, less support of markets, and more supportive of state provided social welfare. Utilizing sophisticated – yet transparent – statistical modeling techniques, the authors illustrate that additional years of exposure to communism correspond with greater support for attitudes associated with communist ideology. The one exception, attitudes towards gender equality, is itself revealing: in the area where the reality of communist rule was farthest from the rhetoric of the ideology, the legacy effect appears to be weakest.

Written in a modular manner, the book is designed to be accessible to readers interested in its four core areas – attitudes towards democracy, markets, social-welfare, and gender equality – as well as readers interested in the overarching substantive question regarding the determinants of legacy effect, the study of comparative public opinion, and methodological approaches to analyzing the effects of legacies on political behavior.

Communism’s Shadow represents the first systematic attempt to assess the effect of Communist legacies on public opinion in a rigorous, comparative, and falsifiable framework. Written in a modular manner, the book is designed to be accessible to readers interested in its four core areas – attitudes towards democracy, markets, social-welfare, and gender equality – as well as readers interested in the overarching substantive question regarding the determinants of legacy effects, the study of comparative public opinion, and methodological approaches to analyzing the effects of legacies on political behavior.

About

About the Comparative Democracy Seminar Series

The Ash Center’s Comparative Democracy Seminar Series, run by Candelaria Garay, Associate Professor of Public Policy, and Quinton Mayne, Associate Professor of Public Policy, brings innovative scholars in the field of comparative democracy to the Kennedy School to present their research. Seminars have focused on topics as diverse as compulsory voting, the influence of Christian churches on public policy, the crisis of representation in Latin America, and the oil curse in the Middle East.

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