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Disembedded Politics: Neoliberal Reform and Labour Market Institutions in Central and Eastern Europe

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 December 2018

Besnik Pula*
Besnik Pula, Department of Political Science, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia, US
*Corresponding author. Email:


Defying predictions of radical liberalization, labour market institutions in post-socialist Central and Eastern Europe are characterized by relatively protective employment legislation, sometimes combined with collective bargaining rights. However, not all protective employment regimes survived political attack by neoliberal reformers. Existing theories in comparative political economy suggest that employment regimes reflect the relative political power of producer groups. Others have suggested that in Central and Eastern Europe the content of labour market reform was determined by the coercive influence of transnational actors. Through a comparative analysis of labour market reform in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia, this article finds that trade unions played a key role in early institutional settlements over labour markets. However, in Romania and Slovakia, these institutional settlements were subsequently undermined by attacks by ideologically motivated domestic elites in episodes of disembedded politics. The article develops the concept of disembedded politics and demonstrates its importance in post-socialist institutional change.

Copyright © The Author 2018. Published by Government and Opposition Limited and Cambridge University Press

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