Eastern European Politics and Labor Relations
Read David Ost's Curriculum Vitae
David Ost is an internationally known scholar in the field of European studies. He has written widely on East European politics and society, with a focus on political economy, democratization, capitalism, and labor. Fellowships, appointments as a visiting professor, and numerous research visits have brought him into close association with scholars and policy makers in Poland and the surrounding areas, making him one of the leading experts on the domestic politics and international relations of the area.
Among Ost's books, his first, Solidarity and the Politics of Anti-Politics (1990), remains one of the most often-cited works on the collapse of the communist system in eastern Europe. His edited collection (with Stephen Crowley) Workers After Workers' States (2001), is a standard reference for research on labor in postcommunist society. His most recent book, The Defeat of Solidarity: Anger and Politics in Postcommunist Society (2005), received the 2006 Ed Hewett award for the Best Book in Political Economy from the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. It was published in Polish translation in 2007 to great acclaim, and soon figured in the country's political debates.
He is happy to discuss all aspects of Eastern European politics with media personnel, and offers the following comments to give a glimpse of his understanding and perspective:
East European Politics and Society
Market democracies have been stabilized throughout the region, leading most observers to speak unambiguously of success. What is important now is the quality of those democracies, and that varies. Different countries in the region show different kinds of exclusion and discrimination: against women, minorities, immigrants, and gays. Radical right parties have grown, as political entrepreneurs seek to use attacks on others as a vehicle for their own ascendance. The European Union has helped expand the inclusiveness of the political system, but that may change as radical, anti-immigrant policies gain in western Europe as well. The nature of European democracy is changing all the time.
American--East European Relations
U.S.-East European relations have changed in the past years, as the region feels it has been treated poorly. Even though these former communist countries, in sharp contrast to those in western Europe, lined up behind the U.S. in the invasion of Iraq, and contributed troops to the occupation, they received little in the way of thanks. Paltry levels of foreign aid, the continued denial of visa-free travel to the U.S., the lack of reconstruction contracts, and anger at being lied to about Iraq, have turned many in the region sour on the U.S. They remain grateful of the NATO security guarantee, and are not beyond playing a U.S. card in relations with western Europe, but they do not trust the United States like they did. This affects general U.S.-European relations in a number of ways.
Labor Relations in Eastern Europe
The anti-communist revolutions in Eastern Europe were started by workers in Poland, and labor issues remain crucially important to political perspectives and economic possibilities in the region. Trade union membership plummeted after the fall of communism, and a three-tier labor market emerged, with workers in hi-tech foreign firms doing relatively well, those in the domestic private sector much less so, and state-sector employees (such as in health and education) largely marginalized. Recent years see the beginning of a labor revival, often in cooperation with trade unions in the west. Can such cooperation provide new hope for labor in the age of globalization?
Russian-East European Relations
After the collapse of communism in 1989, international politics in Eastern Europe meant the increasing power of the United States and the European Union, and the marginalization of Russia. Until now. After over a decade of weakness, Russia has returned as a major player in the region, a point it stressed in the 2008 conflict with Georgia. It controls oil and gas supplies for eastern Europe, is trying to buy fuel companies in the region, and has Prime Minister Putin willing to assert Russia's power. Politics in the region is thus entering a new period of political volatility that will be extremely important for America in the years ahead.
Intra-European Rivalry and Cooperation
While most commentators speak of the eastern enlargement of the European Union as a success, the E.U. is in fact undergoing one of its most trying moments. The entry of 12 new countries in what had been a western European Union has meant that Europe is no longer sure of the direction it should take. Should the western and eastern parts of Europe work towards a close political union, or should they move at different speeds towards different goals? How can foreign relations be managed, given different east and west attitudes to America and Russia? Managing differences within an expanded union will be one of the EU's key challenges in the years to come.
Solidarity and the Politics of Anti-Politics: Opposition and Reform in Poland since 1968
Temple University Press, 1990
The Defeat of Solidarity: Anger and Politics in Postcommunist Europe
Cornell University Press, 2005
Workers after Workers' States
Rowman & Littlefield, 2001
Interview opportunities and additional background information may be requested through the Office of Communications, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, New York. Phone: (315) 781-3540. After business hours, Communications staff members are accessible through contact information on their answering machine at that number.
David Ost joined the faculty at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 1986, after earning his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to that he spent several years studying and living in Eastern Europe supported by a variety of nationally competitive fellowships, including Fulbright. During his tenure at the Colleges he has been awarded additional fellowships and has returned to do research in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe on numerous occasions. Most recently he was a Senior Fulbright Professor at Central European University and Warsaw University (1998-99) and has also served, on occasion, as a visiting professor at Central European University in Warsaw and in Budapest. In August of 2006, Ost was invited onto the editorial board of the journal "Politics and Society," one of the leading publications in both political science and sociology
Ost is the author of two books on Polish politics: Solidarity and the Politics of Anti-Politics (1990), and The Defeat of Solidarity: Anger and Politics in Postcommunist Europe (2005); co-author of Workers After Workers' States (2001); and co-author of the textbook European Politics in Transition (now in its fifth edition). He has more than 40 articles published in journals, has contributed op-eds to the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, and has been featured on the BBC, PBS, the "McNeil-Lehrer Report" and on numerous major radio stations.
Ost speaks fluent Polish and near-fluent Russian.
Ost's vita is available online.