Zombie socialism and the rise of neoliberalism in post-socialist Central and Eastern Europe

Liviu Chelcea, Oana Druţǎ

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Many scholars have asked themselves if and for how long they should use the concept of “post-socialism.” We review some ways in which post-socialism is no longer used productively and suggest that one way to analyze the enduring effects of socialism (a useful role for the concept of post-socialism) is by paying attention to how economic and political elites in Central and Eastern Europe continue to use the ghost of state-socialism as the ultimate boogeyman, disciplinary device, and “ideological antioxidant.” We call this blend of post-1989 anti-communism and neoliberal hegemony “zombie socialism,” and we argue that it is a key component of contemporary capitalism in Central and Eastern Europe. We illustrate briefly some cases of zombie socialism, using data such as EU 28 statistics on labor, wages, work–life (im)balance, income tax, housing, and housing policies to show the effects of this hegemonic discourse. The presence of zombie socialism for almost three decades in Central and Eastern Europe made some of these countries “more” capitalist than countries with longer capitalist traditions in Europe. We join others who have suggested that there is nothing to transition any longer, as the “transition” is long over.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-544
Number of pages24
JournalEurasian Geography and Economics
Issue number4-5
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2016


  • Central and Eastern Europe
  • housing policy
  • inequalities
  • Neoliberalism
  • post-socialism
  • social policy


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