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Civic Engagement in a Post-Communist State

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During the communist era, numerous social and political constraints limited civic engagement in communities throughout Central and Eastern Europe. This paper explores whether such constraints have left lasting marks, and whether such lingering effects potentially slow the process of democratization. Three specific questions were explored: (1) whether civic engagement in a post-communist state differs from that in an established Western democracy; (2) whether the quality of social perception suffers when civic engagement is constrained; and (3) whether a link exists between civic engagement and tangible forms of political judgment. Data were analyzed from surveys conducted in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, in 1994 and in South Bend, Indiana, in 1984. Compared with South Bend residents, the people of Cluj-Napoca discuss politics less, engage in interactive forms of political participation at lower rates, know less about their neighbors, and fail to link the interests of people in the community to broader political judgments. Given the centrality of civic engagement to democratic legitimacy, these findings justify concern regarding the prospects for full democratization in Central and Eastern European contexts in which social interaction does not yet flourish.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Florida State University, 2: Buffalo State College

Publication date: September 1, 1998

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