Roman republican denarius with the heads of Dioscuri, 108-107 BC
 

Dioscuri Project 
Eastern Enlargement – Western Enlargement
Cultural Encounters in the European Economy and Society after the Accession

26 September 2017
 
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Research Objectives

The primary objective of the DIOSCURI project was to explore the dynamics of cultural exchange between “East” and “West” in the European economy, including identifying the main types of cultural encounters between the two halves of Europe during and after the Enlargement, mapping the major cultural gaps and strategies to bridge them, and describing the fields in which the new entrants can contribute to the rejuvenation of economic cultures in the Union.

DIOSCURI focused on three research fields: entrepreneurship, governance and economic knowledge. The Consortium expected to find a great variety of lasting cultural hybrids in economic and social behaviour, instead of a simplistic scheme, in which the "strong Western" culture devours the "weak Eastern" one. Thus, in an unprecedented way, Eastern Enlargement was studied in conjunction with its neglected counterpart, Western Enlargement.

The project has resulted in a set of case and country studies as well as comparative analyses that will be available to the public soon. It also provided policy recommendations on how to facilitate cultural exchange between the old member states and the new entrants in the European economy.

Research Methodology

The main focus of the analysis was on four countries of East-Central Europe: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia, and on four South-East European countries: Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Serbia. In order to validate the research results in these countries, DIOSCURI also explored a cultural adjustment by Austria that participated in a previous round of enlargement and by the former GDR. The selection of countries followed the combined principles of representativeness, comparability and researchability. The three research fields were “entrepreneurship”, “governance” and “economic knowledge”.

  • Entrepreneurship - Encounters between Western businesspeople and their local partners
  • Governance - Encounters between Western civil servants and their local partners
  • Economic knowledge - Encounters between Western economists and their local partners

The rationale was to identify research fields (whose actors are important producers and mediators of economic culture), in which transnational cultural exchange between Eastern and Western Europe has been frequent during the past ten to fifteen years. Probably, these are also the fields that appear most often in critical assessments of Eastern European economic culture. The terms “entrepreneurship” and “governance” are usually accompanied by adjectives such as „aggressive”, „illegal”, „corrupt”, „uncontrolled”, „inefficient” reflecting an unmistakably negative attitude.

Originally, the Consortium planned to explore these three fields through 100 interviews per country leading to a number of case studies. In reality, with fieldwork concluded, the number of interviews was far beyond the planned, and to date more than 70 case studies have been completed based on hundreds of in-depth interviews. The list of case studies show how the teams managed to identify similar/identical cases – a promising prerequisite of subsequent comparative inquiries. What is more, a few cases (international bank, Sapard program, vine production, MEPs, institutional economics, etc.) are identical in many teams. In addition each country team also prepares two media reviews, leading to a comparative study as well. The scientific method of the media analysis was at the discretion of the national teams. It was suggested, however, that, in harmony with the general style of our project, argumentational analysis or qualitative discourse analysis be preferred to quantitative content analysis.

Case study authors were asked to offer a thick description of the case, providing in this way other members of the Consortium with important pieces of knowledge; pieces, part of which will probably be thrown out of the published version of the paper. In order to understand the encounters, we decided (a) to observe the institution(s)/case(s) and their key actors in the context of their cultural scenery; (b) to reconstruct the stories of cultural encounters, including the evaluation of these stories by the respondents. In presenting the locus (loci) of our case, researchers displayed the institution under scrutiny (at various levels of the organizational hierarchy) and its environment (authorities, competitors, etc.) to a degree required by the logic of the case. As to the time frame, we were interested in the history of a given case (possibly, from its very beginning) but occasionally, the life history of the respondents before the case came into being could also contain crucial information for us. By the structure of encounters we meant the configuration of the main actors, the scenes of their encounters and the major cultural components that influence each other.

Although in the interviews we were focusing on interpersonal encounters, the description of the case could not but go beyond them, exploiting other research techniques (analysis of documents, participant observation, etc.) as well. Eventually, case studies reconstructed the “cultural biography” of a case/institution/issue, not simply a set of personal stories. We assumed that, in principle, the encounters follow this sequence: preliminary expectations by the actors concerning the cultural specifics of their partners (mental baggage); surprises; embarrassments, culture shocks; cultural differences/gaps/frictions/conflicts between the partners (in terms of practice and/or discourse); crafting coping strategies by the partners to bridge the gaps; bridging the gaps: solutions ranging from resistance/dissimilation to acceptance/assimilation; emergence of cultural compromises/hybrids; drawing the lessons.

As regards the outcomes of the encounters, we postulated to witness the emergence of cultural hybrids/blends/mixes that differ in their internal composition ranging from “Western victory” -- ”Eastern defeat” to the opposite extreme, between symmetric and asymmetric, actual and simulated, formal and informal, etc. compromises, voluntary takeover and imposition, etc. The outcomes can be stable and provisional, even cyclical. Again, the intermediary types are numerous. A case contains quite a few encounters whereby the individual outcomes can be synergetic or compensatory.