Hollow Sustainabilities? Perspectives on Sustainable Development in the Postsocialist World

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The primary purpose of this paper is to provide a critical review of recent work that analyzes the nexus of post-socialist transition and sustainability. Beyond this broad aim, the paper also proposes two analytical insights. First it argues against binary thinking within work on transition and sustainability. This binary is marked on the one side by those who celebrate the new opportunities that transition offers to hard-wire sustainability into the constitutional fabric of post-socialist society; and on the other, by analysts who claim that the economic imperatives of capitalist transition have engulfed the chance to build sustainable development capacities. Second, it suggests many of the formal processes and events that are used to measure and assess the rise of sustainable development in the post-socialist world (particularly laws, institutions, plans planning conventions, and protocols) are poor indicators of actually existing sustainabilities. Drawing predominantly, but not exclusively, on the work of geographers, and focusing explicitly on Central and Eastern Europe and Russia, analysis ultimately claims that a post-socialist perspective can bring important empirical and conceptual insights into sustainable development studies, and that sustainable development offers an important critical lens through which to explore the emerging geographies of transition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1618–1634
Number of pages17
JournalGeography Compass
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 01 Nov 2010


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