could adequately encompass these extraordinarily complex processes and explain the very different rates and patterns of transformation across the post-communist world. Most established economic theory aims to explain marginal and incremental changes. It is therefore at best partial, and at worst misleading, in the context of sweeping, rapid changes in entire systems. More-over, conventional theory assumes the existence of underlying formal and informal institutional arrangements that are radically different from those pre-vailing in many parts of Central and Eastern Europe and the New Independent States. Similar difficulties beset our explanations of political change: models that fit more or less adequately the representative systems of capitalist democracies leave unstated both the underlying institutional forms and conditions for drastic transformation.
At the outset of the transformation, these shortcomings of Western theory and knowledge were compounded by the widespread assumption that these societies would "naturally" evolve into systems closely approximating those of the industrialized West. These teleological and deterministic assumptions are not inherent in existing theories, but nonetheless have had a powerful influence on policy advice and action in the post-communist world. The ascendance of neoliberal economic philosophy during the 1980s, both in the industrialized West and in poorer regions of the world, seemed vindicated by communism's collapse in Central and Eastern Europe and the New Independent States. For a brief period, many observers and advocates believed that Western models of market economies and democratic polities were the wave of the future, and that the post-communist world was embarking down the same road to the same destination (though some countries were expected to move more rapidly than others). Moreover, many people thought that road was plainly marked: stabilization, liberalization, and privatization would transform highly bureaucratized, statist economic systems into dynamic, competitive capitalist economies. Similarly, contested elections, political parties, and decision making by representative assemblies would provide the path to democratic stability.
Experience during the 1990s has confirmed the crucial importance of certain (mainly macroeconomic) policies as necessary, though far from sufficient, underpinnings to resumed growth. But the failures and disappointments of initial efforts at transformation in parts of the post-communist world and the varied patterns and ongoing problems in even the most successful cases have led most thoughtful reformers and analysts to back away from single-track assumptions. There is now much greater recognition that different paths of transformation, and different destinations, are likely to be generated by different histories (before and during the communist era); the different ways in which communism collapsed; and contrasting geography, social structure, ethnic composition, and cultural values. Some of these destinations may look similar to one or another of the multiple models of mainly market economies