Local State and Social Security in Rural Hungary, Romania, and Serbia

Project funded by the Volkswagen Foundation.

Duration: 01.07.2008 – 30.06.2012

Head of the project: Keebet von Benda-Beckmann
Project coordinator: Tatjana Thelen

The project was based on the observation that the tremendous political change in former socialist countries has produced a high diversity in local state formations and social security arrangements. Bringing these two concepts together in a comparative framework allows for new theoretical insights into the working of the state in rural settings and its interrelation with other networks of power. By adopting an anthropological definition of social security, the project seeks to overcome simple dichotomies between formal state and informal help and between state and non-state actors. Instead, the focus was on the interrelatedness and embeddedness of state actors in local social security arrangements. The project concentrates on two major fields of state action as analytic domains: access to productive resources in agriculture/forestry and access to social assistance. The research objectives of the project were:

  1. to develop a research concept and comparative methodology for the study of social security and local state formations
  2. to provide empirical accounts of the different types of relations between local state formations and social security in rural areas
  3. to identify relationship patterns between local state formations and social security
  4. to contribute to an improved understanding of the “state of the postsocialist state”
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