Aarhus University Seal

“Getting things done”: The practice of small-scale enterprise between socialism and capitalism in Eastern Europe

Guest lecture by Veronika Pehe, PhD, Institute for Contemporary History of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague

Info about event


Thursday 6 June 2024,  at 10:00 - 12:00



The phenomenon of “gray” or “second” economies within socialist societies, where people pursued informal or illegal gainful activities in order to compensate for the shortages of the planned economy, has been extensively studied. But what happened to these informal economies during the transformation from socialism to capitalism in Eastern Europe at the turn of the 1990s? While liberalization policies greatly increased the scope for private enterprise, learnt modes of “getting things done” in an informal manner did not disappear overnight. This talk looks at the history of the systemic transformations in Eastern Europe through the topic of private enterprise. But rather than an economic history, it is interested in the continuities and discontinuities of social practice and cultural values associated with enterprising activities. Based on examples primarily from the Czech, Slovak and Polish contexts, the analysis will show how small-scale entrepreneurs transferred previously acquired informal business practices into the post-1990 capitalist era. The talk will address what such an investigation tells us about the perceived legitimacy of the free market and democratic reforms by a social group that was meant to be one of their main protagonists. 

About Veronika Pehe
Veronika Pehe received her PhD in Cultural History from the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London in 2016 with a thesis on the cultural memory of the socialist past in the Czech Republic (in book form: Velvet Retro: Postsocialist Nostalgia and the Politics of Heroism in Czech Popular Culture. New York: Berghahn Books, 2020). She is a cultural historian specializing in Central and Eastern Europe and leads the Research Group for Historical Transformation Studies at the Institute for Contemporary History. Her work focusses on the history of post-socialism and economic transformations, memory and memory politics, and film and popular culture.

More information
Peter Bugge: peter.bugge@cas.au.dk

Download poster below