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April 07 , 2009

Preying on the State

The Transformation of Bulgaria after 1989


Immediately after 1989, newly emerging polities in Eastern Europe had to contend with an overbearing and dominant legacy: the Soviet model of the state. At that time, the strength of the state looked like a massive obstacle to change; less than a decade later, the state's dominant characteristic was no longer its overweening powerfulness, but rather its utter decrepitude. Consequently, the role of the central state in managing economies, providing social services, and maintaining infrastructure came into question. Focusing on his native Bulgaria, Venelin I. Ganev explores in fine-grained detail the weakening of the central state in post-Soviet Eastern Europe.

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Born in a secluded village in the kingdom of Verdenta, ruled over by the iron fist of the Empire of the Phoenix and its cruel, domineering ruler, Empress Maeivra, the so-called ‘Witch Queen’, Diarmud never imagined he would experience anything out of the ordinary. But overnight, he finds himself caught up in a struggle to free the world from the…

Ganev starts with the structural characteristics of the Soviet satellites, and in particular the forms of elite agency favored in the socialist party-state. As state socialism collapsed, Ganev demonstrates, its institutional legacy presented functionaries who had become accustomed to power with a matrix of opportunities and constraints. In order to maximize their advantage under such conditions, these elites did not need a robust state apparatus—in fact, all of the incentives under postsocialism pushed them to subvert the infrastructure of governance.

Throughout Preying on the State, Ganev argues that the causes of state malfunctioning go much deeper than the policy preferences of "free marketeers" who deliberately dismantled the state. He systematically analyzes the multiple dimensions, implications, and significance of the institutional and social processes that transformed the organizational basis of effective governance.

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