The browser you are using is not supported by this website. All versions of Internet Explorer are no longer supported, either by us or Microsoft (read more here:

Please use a modern browser to fully experience our website, such as the newest versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari etc.

Portrait Christopher Swader. Photo Emma Lord.

Christopher Swader

Associate Professor | Senior Lecturer

Portrait Christopher Swader. Photo Emma Lord.

Transformation to a Market Economy and Changing Social Values in China, Russia, and Eastern Germany


  • Christopher Swader

Summary, in English

As a social change, the sudden collapse of communism1 should well be remembered as one of the most formative events of the 20th century. As a political transformation, it caused an initial rush of euphoria within the 'victorious' West and a wave of hope followed by disillusionment for hundreds of millions in the newly ‘democratic’ sphere. As an economic transformation, its effects were even more tangible, for they implied changes within everyday life through the shift from a centrally planned to a market economy. The rules, opportunities, and challenges presented by the basic categories of work and consumption changed practically overnight for a considerable proportion of the world's population. Yet, this event became only an obscure specialization of sociological inquiry. This disappointment is sharpened by the fact that there is, of course, a vast history of

sociological thinking about the connection between economy and sociality. Durkheim and Tönnies, Weber, Marx and Polanyi, and Simmel, to name a few, spent their careers on related questions. We teach their ideas in our universities as our 'classical theory,' yet when the collapse of communism occurred before our eyes, the event, for the most part, was not translated on a wide scale into research questions in relation to these ideas it so obviously applies to. To frame it another way, while there is a history of discussion about economic change, specifically in connection to what might loosely be defined here as

individualization of human sociality, a contemporary application of these thoughts to capitalism is nearly absent. This absence is odd in light of the recent collapse of communism, presumably giving us the opportunity to empirically explore such ideas.

This project jumps into the gap outlined above by examining whether the economic transformation to capitalism has generated tensions within the sociality of subjects who experience it through making them more self-oriented, materialistic, and rationalistic. For the task, I have chosen three very different post-communist locations (Shanghai, China;

Moscow, Russia; and Leipzig, Eastern Germany) and propose that - in light of their profound differences across nearly every dimension - a hypothetical similarity of growing self-centeredness in the last 15-20 years in all three should be linked to their other similarity, the fact that they each experienced a recent transition from centrally planned to

capitalist free-market economic culture.

Publishing year




Document type



University of Bremen


  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)


  • capitalism
  • post-communism
  • post-socialism
  • values
  • family
  • friendship
  • morality
  • economic culture
  • materialism
  • individualization




  • Ansgar Weymann
  • Steffen Mau
  • Jeylan Mortimer

Defence date

10 December 2008

Defence time


Defence place

University of Bremen, Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences


  • Matthias Wingens
  • Herwig Reiter
  • Benedikt Rogge
  • Reinhard Schunck
  • Ansgar Weymann
  • Steffen Mau
  • Jeylan Mortimer