The market transition in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union brings us back to essential issues that Marx and Weber addressed: the genesis of capitalism and the process of economic change. What is the transition and what does it involve - restructuring incentives, creating new laws, learning new culture, or creating new power structures? The answer partially depends on the particular transition (initial conditions, targets, actors' perceptions); but necessary general frameworks remain elusive, and current economic policies and analyses reveal that we understand little more about economic change than a century ago. Recent works on market transitions have furthered our understanding, but also tend to focus on narrow issues: the "success" or "failure" of transitions, elite circulation, financial institutions, networks, and privatization and property changes. These timely and useful contributions still do not orient us to a broader dynamic - that is, just what the transition is is left out. Is path dependent policies? Reorganization of financial systems or property control? The rise or collapse of political alliances and a power elite? It is these and more, together in one complex. If we are to understand the process of constructing capitalism, I suggest we look beyond policies and finance to the process of how actors try to understand their worlds, create meaning, and enforce this meaning.

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Copyright © 1999 Springer. This article first appeared in Theory and Society 28:3 (1999), 383-424.

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