8 февруари 2010 г.

The "hybrid" modernization of Bulgaria (based on a qualitative research of changes in Bulgarian society after 1989)

D.Varzonovtsev

In the visible and as though quite comparable to other countries field of changes in Bulgaria after 1989, things go „as necessary”. Democratic institutes in politics, market economy, freedom of speech and tolerance to cultural and ethnic diversity are created and function. However, in an invisible, hidden and firm manner absolutely other tendencies resist to these changes.
Changes did not lead society to the results which have served as an argument and occasion for their realization. In politics, economy and ordinary life rules a total mistrust to institutions. Corruption remains the leading factor in institutional relations in all spheres of life – economy, education, public health services, and what is extremely dangerous - in judicial system. It is active even in politics where practice of buying votes has been widely developed. The corporate system is also unpromising – small organizations with low organizational culture and bad management dominate here. In the areas of industry, service, and especially agriculture, there are very few effective and competitive firms. Low qualified labor prevails in employment structure and the deficiency of highly skilled experts is more clearly outlined with every day. The resettlement system is significantly misbalanced. Two thirds of the population and economic activity are concentrated in the capital and few other dynamically developing regional centers. At the other pole is the depopulation of the small cities and villages. „To explain something it means to give a plausible substantiation of why in the present state of affairs, - in which there was at least one more possibility ¬ exactly this something was actualized.” (G.Terborn)
Even if this is capitalism, it is very different not only from classical samples, but also from „the capitalisms” of other East European countries and societies. According not only to simple Bulgarians, but also to experts - it is a "rough" capitalism, capitalism in its initial and far outlived in other countries form. As a result the country and society lose innovative and adaptive qualities in an increasing tempo. The hopes that integration with Europe can considerably change the situation do not justify. Something more, Bulgaria remains among the few newly accepted members of EU for which the introduction of restrictive rules on realisation of its membership is not excluded. This backward capitalism has much in common with capitalism in the post-Soviet space which could be explained with many - economic and political, as well as cultural factors.
In a figurative plan, Bulgarian society is "erzats-modern" and "quasi-ritual" - a hybrid, combining not only diverse, but even incompatible elements. Bulgarian researcher A.Rajchev as early as 1990’s had noticed that modernisation remains purely external expression of the adaptation of stable kin based patriarchal structures (or networks of "the second order”) to external, as well as internal, influences and effects of global changes. The author and his colleagues M.Georgieva and N.Obreshkov have connected this with the fact that modernizing effects and practices are substituted and „being reversed”. Decisive conditions for the aforementioned are some traditional behavioral patterns which kept their cultural potential and influence, namely “gurbet” and “alafranga”. Their essence can be defined with the Brodel term – these are some kind of "transformers".Transformers which are not accelerating, but delaying and even turning the direction of the changes. As a result the traditional society includes modernization practices as a resource of its preservation and reproduction.
„Gurbet” could be outwardly defined as a kind of economic migration. Inhabitants of any village or a small city, where they do not have the possibility to earn, in large numbers leave to work abroad. There, however, they do not assimilate, but just the opposite, capsulate themselves and keep all characteristic of their lifestyle, skills and customs. When they come back home, they do not break with the traditional way of life, but remain the same as before departure.
„Аlafranga” (Bulgarian expression with a source “a la Franga / France”) is close in meaning to „simulacrum”. Like the “simulacrum” „alafranga” not simply simulates the "present" in clothes, behaviour and mentality, but substitutes, replaces them with itself, leaving structures of interpretation and comprehension of signs of modernity through a technical inversion of the traditional signs and signification.
From the end of the last century, but especially in the last years, pressure grows in society. People are dissatisfied and disappointed by the course of things, and mainly by the result of changes. This situation is paradoxical, i.e. contrary to the general backlog in wide European and global scale Bulgaria had managed to raise the standard of living for many. Observers have started talking even about a beginning of a middle class. However, critical tendencies have remained – the basic cultural mechanisms that could issue positive effects practically do not work. Education, public health services and social security are in a constant crisis. Criminality grows.
In the course of a focused interview with students from the New Bulgarian University in 2008, participants had come to the conclusion that the deviation and the norm cannot be unequivocally differentiated. Or in the words of the students, „deviations are so many that there’s no space left for the norm”. In quantitative researches of the valuable orientations of young people performed also in NBU for a number of years the classical scale of the anomy by Merton does not give clear dispersion of results, i.e. does not work - on all questions something average is outlined. Young people are ambivalent and inclined to accept the conformism as well as radicalism. But in the nominal scale of values traditional remains a priority – the family, friends, native country.
Both students and mature people, when they want to be explained something, in fact insist to be proved the necessity of doing this, and not that.
There upon the sociology has appeared lagging behind other "explanators". As Terborn has also noted, it is successfully substituted by philosophers and political scientists.
To explain, in this context means - to put a situation in a framework not only due and correct, but also practical.
Once Weber spoke of rationalisation, casting spell off society, when people cease to believe in magic and start acting rationally with trust only in the power of scientific knowledge.
In social sphere, however, the magic – in the form of ideologies and utopias, remained actual. For many the rational explanation is connected with reduction of the case or the problem to the ideological or utopian scheme.
The hybrid modernity in Bulgarian society is also a practical magic in a way - it substitutes the sense and meaning of events and situations. A very good example for classical “alafranga” is the civil society. People know about it, in the public sphere certain images and practices are demonstrated to them - realities that should confirm its existence. But if you ask them if they are familiar with an NGO or had taken part in number of demonstrated and propagated civil practices, they cannot answer.
Today such situation becomes problematic. If even in the classical modern societies "informal", paternal structures and relations remained effective, why exactly Bulgaria needs to be modernised to such a depth?
The problem is that in the last years something specific comes in sight. Mechanisms of "backspacing" of modernisation do not cope with the impact of changes, not only those coming from the outside, but also those made in the society. That is why the reality begins to be percepted by many as chaos. Working routine and traditional explanations are “broken". The effect of compression of the time horizon can certify that. The Future has merged with the Present, people simply cannot and do not wish to plan life rationally. Even when they take credits from banks, many do not think about the moment of paying back. Tomorrow remains unclear and uncertain.
Another way of reversing the changes also lost its relevance for the Bulgarians. In this problematic situation already from the end of the 20th century an image started to form - the image of the "savior" who in a magical way can make things right. And again, this is not some new cultural mechanism - it’s the same old “alafranga”. As our qualitative research from the 1990’s had shown, the image of the savior adds to and develops the traditional image of the “magical helper” (V. Propp), the Big brother, Russia, USA, Europe. The “Big brother” is not very likeable and people say bad things about him but he is needed as a symbol of the tower of strength which by the means of wonder helps Bulgarians to accept and survive the changes even if they do not accept them inwardly. That is to say, on one hand, to keep traditional thinking and behaviour, and on another - to protect the status of modern society, to present it „as needed” to external observers. Last years show a certain tendency of disillusionment for a big part of the population in the sense that “abroad won’t help us”. Precisely on the basis of this disillusionment, ressentiment (Nietzsche), the expectation of the “saviour on a white horse” began to grow. In the last ten years two people have played such a role in Bulgaria – the prime-minister from the right majority in the end of the last century and the former Bulgarian tsar. Both have failed. Nevertheless, the tendency for constructing the image of a "saviour", who could explain the situation better and more reliably to science, remains strong.
The Last representative research in the frame of the European Research of Values for Bulgaria it arise a vary interesting conclusion, that 80% of Bulgarians living not in a town, but in their own village. They not have a political imagination about the citizens of modern national state. They formulate their national identity as an ethnical.

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