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33 Program on Central and Eastern Europe

Recombinant Property in East European Capitalism

1994 – David Stark


In contrast to the problematic of transition, this paper sees social change not as the passage from one order to another but as rearrangement in the patterns of how a multiplicity of social orders are interwoven. From that perspective we see organizational innovation not as replacement but as recombination. The fmdings of field research in Hungarian firms. data on ownership of the largest Hungarian enterprises, and interviews with key policy makers in government. banking. and industry indicate the emergence of new property forms that are neither statist nor private, in which the properties of private and public are dissolved. interwoven. and recombined. Recombinant property is a form of organizational hedging, or portfolio management. in which actors are responding to extraordinary uncertainty in the organizational environment. For enterprise actors the question is not simply, "Will I survive the market test?" but also, under what conditions is proof of worth on market principles neither sufficient nor necessary to survive. Recombinant property is an attempt to have resources in more than one organizational form-or similarly-to produce hybrid organizational forms that can be justified or assessed by more than one standard of measure. The clash of competing organizational principles that characterizes post-socialist societies produces new organizational forms; and this organizational diversity can form a basis for greater adaptability. At the same time, however, this multiplicity of ordering principles creates problems of accountability. Accompanying the decentralized reorganization oj assets is a centralization of liabilities. Both processes blur the boundaries between public and private. On the one hand, privatization produces the criss-crossing lines of recombinant property; on the other, debt consolidation transforms private debt into public liabilities. Whereas in the state socialist economy paternalism was based on the state's attempts at the centralized management of assets, in the first years of the post-socialist economy paternalism is based on the state's attempts at the centralized management of liabilities.