Volume 2, Issue 1, 2015
Value Attainment, Orientations, and Quality-Based Profile of the Local Political Elites in East-Central Europe
Evidence from Four Towns
The present paper is an attempt at examining the value configuration and the socio-demographical profiles of the local political elites in four countries of East-Central Europe: Romania, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Poland. The treatment is a comparative one, predominantly descriptive and exploratory, and employs, as a research method, the case-study, being a quite circumscribed endeavor. The cases focus on the members of the Municipal/Local Council in four towns similar in terms of demography and developmental strategies (i.e. small-to-medium sized communities of around 35,000 inhabitants, with economies largely based on food industry and commercial activities): Tecuci (Galați county, Romania), Česk| Lípa (Liberec region, Czech Republic), Targovishte (Targovishte province, Bulgaria), and Oleśnica (Lower Silesia province, Poland). Hypothesizing that the local elites of the former Sovietized Erurope tend to differ in outlook, priorities, and value attainment, as compared to their Western counterparts, the paper considers the former’s attitudes and perspectives in regard to seven values: a series of values customarily connected with the concept of ‘democracy’ (i.e. citizen participation, political conflict, gradual change, economic equality), state intervention in economy, decentralization and increased local autonomy, cultural-geographical self-identification. The study uses, as well, five models of value attainment in what concerns the ‘ideal portrait’ of the local councilor (Putnam 1976): ethical, pragmatic, technocratic, political, and gender. According to the results of a study applying a standard written questionnaire among the local councilors of the three communities in the period December 2010-February 2013, the paper distinguishes among three corresponding types of local elites: (1) ‘predominantly elitistic,’ (2) ‘democratic elitist,’ and (3) ‘predominantly democratic,’ following two types of explanation accounting for the differences among the four cases: the legacy of the defunct regime and the degree of administrative decentralization.