The paper critically discusses the widespread literature focusing on informal post-communist “clans,” “networks,” or “fiefdoms.” Often self-described as determinedly empirical, the “clan” paradigm is crucially shaped by its origins in the analysis of East Asia, as well as by its use as an ideal-typical opposite of Western-style hands-off market contracting in the “markets and hierarchies” literature. To counter such deficiencies, the paper proposes an alternative argument. Although interactions are indeed personalized, interpersonal trust in many post-communist countries has failed to compensate for missing institutional safeguards. Rather, confronted with an environment of low trust and high uncertainty, actors have developed two main coping strategies: on the one hand vertical integration, on the other hand a hedging strategy of purposeful network redundancy. Even though trust and enforcement remain low, actors can minimize the consequences of default by maintaining multiple ties. The consequences of such organizational strategies are ambiguous. By compensating for defaults, network redundancy has cushioned the impact of economic crisis. At the same time, network redundancy has considerably raised overall transaction costs and may also play a role in impeding democratic consolidation.

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Erasmus University Rotterdam
ISS Working Papers - General Series
ISS Working Paper Series / General Series
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Lehmbruch, B. (2012). Transacting in the absence of trust : Uncertainty and network patterns in post-communism (No. 539). ISS Working Paper Series / General Series (Vol. 539, pp. 1–29). Retrieved from