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WP/63 The New Grand Bourgeoisie under Post-Communism

In the former socialist redistributive economies, the transition to market economy and the conversion to private ownership followed different trajectories. The paper offers an overview on how a new class of grand bourgeoisie was formed in three different regions of the transition: Central Europe, Russia and China. In Central Europe this new class often was recruited from the ranks of the socialist technocratic elite who used their managerial skills, inside knowledge and political connections to convert public property into private wealth. The large propertied class of Central Europe is well formed, and private property rights are secure. In Russia, the new grand bourgeoisie was typically ‘appointed’ by the top political boss, and as leadership changed, the members of this class had to assure the new leader of their loyalty. Failure to do so meant loss of property, exile or jailed. In China, the transition to market economy occurred 'from below'. Many of the wealthy started out with small private businesses that expanded over time. Once they became known to be wealthy, they needed political protection and were vulnerably to political rivalry. Private property in China—much like in Russia—is still rather insecure, and politics are in command.
WIDER Working Paper
WP/63 The New Grand Bourgeoisie under Post-Communism
Iván Szelényi
Publication date:
May 2010
ISBN 13 Web:
Copyright holder:
Copyright year:
post-socialism, transitional economies, wealth, privatization, bourgeoisie
D31, P20, P31
Reflections on Transition: Twenty Years After the Fall of the Berlin Wall
UNU-WIDER acknowledges the financial contribution to the conference by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the continued support to the research programme by the governments of Denmark (Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Finland (Ministry for Foreign Affairs), Sweden (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency—Sida) and the United Kingdom (Department for International Development).
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