The memory of how neoliberal economic policies were implemented in Eastern Europe after 1989 is still relevant to the region’s politicians, blue-collar workers and white-collar managers, and cultural producers. In this episode of the Transformative Podcast, Veronika Pehe tells Rosamund Johnston how political, vernacular and cultural memories of the “neoliberal turn” sometimes overlap, sometimes do not, and how this continues to generate forms of social cohesion and division today. While stressing the diversity of experiences within the region (with "memory wars" relating to the 1990s sharper in some places than in others), Pehe argues that by understanding the events of the period under the rubric of the “neoliberal turn,” historians can bring East European history into conversation with economic processes such as deindustrialization taking place in other global regions at the time.
Veronika Pehe is the head of the Research Group for Historical Transformation Studies at the Czech Institute of Contemporary History in Prague. With Joanna Wawrzyniak, she is the editor of Remembering the Neoliberal Turn: Economic Change and Collective Memory in Eastern Europe after 1989 (New York: Routledge, 2024). Additionally, she is the author of a monograph, Velvet Retro, published by Berghahn in 2020, and is shortly to release a Czech-language volume on the 1990s in Czech society titled Věčná devadesátá.