ABSTRACT

The ideal of civil society and the media autonomous from the state did not lose its viability as a fundamental condition of democracy in spite of often invisible market and state forces penetrating both the media and civil society. In the previous chapter I tried to show why (re)privatization of the means of production and particularly of the media is paradoxical in terms of their democratization. However, while postsocialist theorists argue for a "pure" market economy, they largely neglect the role of state institutions. In practice, however, national state institutions are not only indispensable given the socialist and broader cultural heritage and the lack of a genuine market economy; they also tend to reappropriate the power that limits the autonomy of both the economy and civil society. To a certain degree, democratic reforms in East-Central Europe were certainly successful, mainly for having introduced parliamentary political democracy and party pluralism. But even if parliamentary democracy is formally established, it is not in terms of fundamental procedural rules resulting from the ideals of toleration (against any form of fanaticism and revenge) and nonviolence (Bobbio 1987, pp. 41-42) that in the West represent the base for a culture of tolerance and permissiveness. In contrast to the mature democratic countries, which passed through a lengthy period of "protodemocracy" (Dahl 1991, p. 14), the newly emerging democracies in East-Central Europe are lacking in any democratic political culture. It is not surprising, then, that political institutions in these countries are extremely fragile and often seem to be a replay of paternalistic politics aimed at the reconstruction of a version of the party-state. This can be best exemplified by the growing role of the state in services, state- and/or party-supported nationalisms, the lack of political opposition, intolerance of criticism (e.g., of nationalism or privatization) or arguments for a different social system, and, particularly, the absence of any consensual model of democracy. As Held (1989, p. 194) suggested, "The social prerequisites of a functioning polyarchy—consensus on the rules of procedure; consensus on the range of policy options; consensus on the legitimate scope of political activity—are the most profound obstacles to all forms of oppressive rule. The greater the extent of consensus, the securer the democracy" (italics added).