Skip to content

4.9 Program for the Study of Germany and Europe

Ontology, Context, & Chance: Three Exit Routes from Communism

1994 – Jadwiga Staniszkis


The ontology of communism is unable to explain the observed diversity of exits from communism. It explains only the implosion as a hypothetical. "logical." end of communism. In order to under­ stand the actual. diverse. historical forms of the end of communism. one has to analyse efforts to rationalize control (or the meta-discourse of control) that were undertaken to prevent implosion. These efforts together with conjunctural phenomena led to the gradual reinterpretation of the concept of control itself and. as a result. to departure from communist structures. The institutional and symbolic reserves that served as building blocks of these efforts were taken from a specific cultural heritage in each country.

In this paper three forms of exit from communism and three specific cultural contexts are analysed. with special attention paid to dilemmas of revolution from above. Methodological auto-reflection is presented at the end. discussing among other problems the relationship between ontology and con­ junctural factors and a paradox of evolutionary paradigm of discontinuous change.