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Keywords:

  • communism;
  • legitimacy;
  • norms;
  • elites

The predominant traditions in international relations and comparative political economy both failed to anticipate the end of the cold war. The explanation is not that these traditions are flawed; rather it is that they developed in response to different kinds of questions. Structural realism explains the distribution of power in the international system, not the attitudes or expectations of domestic elites. Meanwhile institutionalist traditions at the domestic level focus on explaining stability, persistence or path-dependence and not sudden or sweeping change. Given their focus, these different traditions built on assumptions that were ill-suited to explain the end of communism. They are better suited, however, to explaining what happened to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe once communism fell.