American Sociological Association

The Temporal Logic of Deservingness: Inequality Beliefs in Two Postsocialist Societies

Employing a cultural sociological approach, this article asks how individuals from two postsocialist societies articulate principles of justice by providing narrative accounts of other peoples’ perceived choices and social mobility trajectories after 1989. Using data from an interview study of 67 respondents from former East Germany and the Czech Republic, I present two interrelated findings: First, as respondents negotiate the tension between the principles of merit and need, they show widespread support for the idea that individuals are personally responsible for their fate despite the legacy of egalitarianism commonly associated with postsocialist societies. Second, individuals can effectively challenge the principle of merit by using a certain type of eventful knowledge about economic change after 1989 that is articulated morally but points to the limits of choice. The article distinguishes different notions of deservingness and contributes to the current debate on the links between culture and economics.


Till Hilmar