Lean, special, or consensual? : vulnerability and external buffering in the small states of East-Central Europe
Title: Lean, special, or consensual? : vulnerability and external buffering in the small states of East-Central Europe
Citation: Comparative politics, 2017, Vol. 49, No. 2, pp. 191–212
ISSN: 0010-4159; 2151-6227
This article embeds the small state experiences in East Central Europe into the broader comparative political economy literature. These broader debates have developed three propositions—one about the need for liberal orthodoxy in small, vulnerable states, a second about special forms of comparative advantage such small states might develop, and the third about the capacities of small states to adapt through consultation and compensation. We show that each presents strategic options that do offer small states distinct advantages. Yet each strategy also has important drawbacks that should dampen implications of context-free “best practice.” We then analyze a key scope condition for small states’ successful adaptation, namely the buffering function that the international system sometimes provides. Existing literature overemphasizes the impact of domestic strategies and downplays the contribution of the international system when accounting for small states’ successes (and failures) in recovering after major shocks. Only when domestic strategies are supported (rather than undercut) by external factors can small states recover and adapt. We thus stress a diversity of strategies, the insufficiency—taken on its own—of each strategy, and the need for external buffering that is either compensatory or complementary to domestic strategies rather than corrosive of them.
Publication date: January 1, 2017
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