risks—and is likely to be more effective than alternative uses of time and energy. Many of those hardest hit by the transformation—older, less educated, and often rural people—are likely to view protests and demonstrations as risky and ineffective. Solidaristic groups such as miners may well resort to protest to exert pressure for specific claims such as payment of back wages, but are not likely to extend their demands to broader goals.
Moreover, not many leaders or groups are eager to provoke antisystem efforts. In most of Eastern Europe and increasingly in Russia, elections are now viewed as the sole legitimate route to power. More specifically, communist parties or their reoriented successors seek to establish their credentials as players in the system rather than challengers outside of it. Therefore, they will appeal for electoral support by criticizing the social costs of transformation, but have not been quick to try to organize disorderly protests.
In short, the links between social hardship and political protest are mediated by a large number of subjective interpretations and expectations, by institutional and organizational contexts, and by explicit or (more often) implicit rational assessments of the benefits and costs of alternative courses of action. In the post-communist world as in much of the noncommunist world, severe economic hardships have prompted a great deal of complaint and considerable protest, but only rarely a sustained backlash strong enough to derail economic reforms or political openings already under way.
A focus on the risks of reversal is a very narrow lens through which to examine the political implications of the costs of transformation. While they probably will not provoke reversal, social costs (and benefits) already incurred or still unfolding will profoundly shape the character and quality of rapidly evolving and still fluid political systems. Preoccupation with reversal may lead to neglect of other, less dramatic yet ultimately crucial impacts.
A glance at current trends in much of Latin America suggests some of the issues at stake. Bolivia, Mexico, and several other countries adopted stabilization programs and market-oriented reforms in the mid-1980s, several years before the beginning of the transformation in Eastern Europe; Argentina and Peru launched particularly draconian reforms at roughly the same time as Central Europe. Since Latin American economies were largely market economies, despite extensive government intervention, structural adjustment has been far less profoundly disruptive there than in the post-communist world. Where initial measures contained hyperinflation (Bolivia, Argentina, Peru), they brought early popular support. In Argentina and Peru, they also generated striking macroeconomic success, including initially rapid growth and sharply expanded exports. But many of the benefits of new growth have been