Book Review: Political and Social Construction of Poverty: Central and Eastern European Countries in Transition
Serena Romano’s book is predominantly an academic history of the economies of five of the former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe: Czech Republic, Estonia, Slovenia, Poland and Hungary.
Although each country has its own unique story there are some consistent themes. During the Communist era poverty was less denied than ignored though the use of euphemistic language: the deprived stratum, disadvantaged, limited consumption, etc, with a strong focus on the deserving and undeserving poor through terms such as parasitic behaviour and ‘dysfunctional’. What welfare support existed was only accessible via employment schemes and, with the collapse of the Soviet economic model, the rapid rise in unemployment led to the loss of access to welfare for the already poorest in society. Current welfare systems, devised under EU and World Bank guidance, were developed to enable them to gain EU membership in the early part of this century, just before the international economic crisis that still grips us.
There is no real attempt at an analysis for what this means for the wider EU community today, particularly in attitudes to work and work migration. An annotated map and/or chronology would also be a useful addition. However, published in 2014 the book coincides with the 25th anniversary of the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the 10th anniversary of Central and Eastern Europe countries beginning their membership of the EU, and serves as a timely reminder of just how recent these events have been, and should be of particular interest to leaders, policy makers and those with a need to understand current trends in these countries.
Serena Romano, Political and Social Construction of Poverty: Central and Eastern European Countries in Transition (2014), Policy Press, Bristol, http://www.policypress.co.uk, ISBN 978-1-44731-271-0 (Hardback £70)