Beyond Two Decades of Social Transition in Ukraine: The Underestimated Power of Agency in Transition Research

Publisher:
Australian and New Zealand Journal of European Studies
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Australian and New Zealand Journal of European Studies, 2013, 5 (2), pp. 45 - 60 (16)
Issue Date:
2013
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The purpose of this article is twofold. Firstly it explains the process by which democratic social transformations are realised in post-Soviet Ukraine; and secondly it introduces models describing the life-course strategies that Ukrainians utilise in facing the uncertainties of a society in transition. By analyzing and dissecting the individual’s ways of dealing with systemic structural changes in the economic, political and social spheres this paper demonstrates how the sociology of life strategies can be applied to the specifics of post-Soviet Ukraine. Particularly, by drawing on mainstream post-Soviet scholarship and statistical data, the life pathways of Ukrainians are observed to be distinctly polarised. Agents adopt one of two opposing life strategies: one dynamic, risk-taking and future-oriented “achievement strategies” (or “creation strategies”), which are open to mobility; and the other conservative, risk-minimizing and survival-oriented “survival strategies” and “strategies of adaptation” that are less conducive to any type of change. Focusing on existing problems of a continuously fragile internal political and economic stability in Ukraine which have threatened to further delay the incorporation of Ukraine into the democratically advanced and developed West, this article puts forward the idea that the proliferation of life strategy type can determine the vector of development of the whole society, giving insight into the circular relationship between social transformations and actions of individuals in conditions of social change.
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