Social Change in Ukraine - Obstacles and Opportunities
At this scientific conference, the structure of Ukraine’s society, economy and polity will be analyzed. The focus lies on potential hurdles to overcome in order for the country to integrate in a sustainable way into the community of European states.
Ukraine sees itself on the threshold of change from a post-Soviet to a European model. However, many hurdles are still to be overcome on this path. There is often a gap between political declarations of intent and their realization – not only in Ukraine. The depiction of a linear development is too simplistic to take complex social processes into account. The instrumental logic of economic reform and development policy may conflict with informal institutions, unwritten rules, or corrupt practices. Such mechanisms can hijack good intentions and steer processes in a different direction.
With the military aggression against Ukraine, global media attention, and widespread support in Western countries, a new situation exists.
At the conference, international experts will examine social phenomena in Ukraine. Where are the levers for change? Which hurdles exist? And how can they be overcome? The conference aims to contribute to a better understanding of the country in order to correctly assess opportunities and risks for integration efforts, reconstruction aid or investments.
Wednesday, 16 Nov
09:00 - 09:20 Introduction: Michael Derrer
Topic: The practical use of institutional economics and economic sociology for business and international cooperation.
Content: Projects of private business, government cooperation, and non-governmental assistance may fail, due to an insufficient understanding of local realities. The specificity of social phenomena can be understood using concepts like formal and informal institutions, cultural embeddedness, and power relations. The success of projects is often decided by what lies under the surface, and what is unsaid in official discourses.
09:20 - 09:30 Simon Pidoux
Topic: The Ukraine Reform Conference (URC22) and the Lugano Principles
Ambassador Simon Pidoux speaks about the Ukraine Reform Conference in Lugano 2022 (URC22) and the resulting Lugano Principles.
09:30 - 10:20 Bálint Magyar
Topic: Post-Communist Regime Trajectories and Challenges for Patronal Democracies
Content: The tragic events in Ukraine must compel Western observers to seek a more authentic language, words, and concepts that can explain the post-communist world, its peculiarities, and tendencies. The presentation offers a conceptual framework. Ukraine is analyzed as a “patronal democracy”, where color revolutions brought democratic transformation without anti-patronal transformation. The question is, whether the war will lead out of a cyclical regime development, and which factors can increase the chances of anti-patronal transformation.
10:20 - 10:40 Break
10:40 - 11:30 Bálint Madlovics
Topic: Relational Economy and Oligarchs in Post-Communist Regimes
Content: Just as the main actors of political competition are not “parties” in the Western sense but informal patronal networks, the main actors of economic competition are not “entrepreneurs” in the Western sense but oligarchs.
Using the concept of relational economy, the presentation explores the difficulties of conceptualization and empirical measurement of oligarchs, and underlines the differences between a patronal democracy (Ukraine) and a patronal autocracy (Russia and Hungary).
11:30 - 11:50 Break
11:50 - 12:40 Vladimir Dubrovsky
Topic: Ukraine's socio-politico-economic system
Content: Ukraine's formal institutions can appear "European", although in fact the system is based predominantly on informal institutions in a "limited access social order".
Zero-sum thinking complements these institutions. However, there are at least two kinds of forces that are driving the evolution of this system and indicate levers for change.
12:40 - 14:00 Lunch
14:00 - 14:50 David Dalton
Topic: The oligarchy as Ukraine’s dominant post-communist political economy regime
Content: What is the oligarchy, how it has been able to reproduce itself across crises, and has this meant for Ukraine’s economic development. And why it is important that reform of the oligarchy as an institution should be, but so far has not been, at the centre of discussions of Ukraine's post-war reform and reconstruction.
14:50 - 15:10 Break
15:10 – 16:00 Jacek Kurczewski
Topic: Considerations on the Difference in Post-Communist Transformation of Poland and Ukraine
Content: The presentation addresses pre-communist and communist legacies, and the social mechanisms of transformation. It is completed by a glimpse at the sociology of attitudes to law and justice, and ends with conjectures on normative infrastructures.
16:00 - 16:20 Break
16.20 - 17:00 Panel discussion “Can institutional economics indicate the paths for development in Ukraine?”
Panel with today’s speakers, moderated by Michael Derrer The starting point for the discussion is a 10 minutes input presentation of Christoph Hauser on institutional economics and development. Then the speakers enter into a dialogue, and respond to questions of the audience.
Thursday, 17 Nov
09:00 - 09:50 Mikhail Chaplyga
Topic: What is the economic future of Ukraine after the war?
Content: The war led to fundamental changes in the structure of the Ukrainian economy. Ukraine has become 100% dependent on external financial assistance - mainly humanitarian aid and loans. As a result, volunteering and humanitarian aid became one of the most profitable "businesses", which led to several high-profile corruption scandals and revelations.
Will Ukraine follow the Bosnian path, where the national economy collapsed not so much from the war as from foreign aid? Is a Marshall Plan for Ukraine possible? How do experts and authorities see it?
09:50 - 10:10 Break
10:10 - 11:00 Oksana Huss
Topic: Continuity and change of the social contract in Ukraine seen through the lens of contested anti-corruption policies
Content: Now that Western partners are concerned with the mechanisms to maintain and recover Ukraine during and after the war, voices denouncing widespread corruption in the country are loud. What has been overseen is the incremental change in the social contract that has been ongoing since the Revolution of Dignity. I will assess anti-corruption policies from the perspective of historical institutionalism. I will also discuss the influence of Martial Law on anti-corruption policies.
11:00 - 11:20 Break
11:20 - 12:10 Svitlana Shcherbak
Topic: The Rise and Fall of Populism in Ukraine
Content: During the 2019 presidential campaign, the question was discussed whether Volodymyr Zelensky was a populist, as his rhetoric and figure met many of the criteria of populism. Zelensky promoted the inclusive concept of “the people,” based on citizenship, multiethnicity and regional heterogeneity, and contrasted it with “the corrupt elites”. In contrast, former President Petro Poroshenko promoted an exclusive ethno-nationalist, anti-liberal concept of the people that required homogenization based on a common language, culture and faith. Voting for Zelensky can be considered as a democratic uprising against a right-wing conservative nation-building and corrupt political system. After the outbreak of the war, populist discourse lost its relevance, and we are witnessing a nation-building process based entirely on nationalist grounds.
12:10 - 13:30 Lunch
13:30 – 14:00 Denys Kiryukhin
Topic: The temporary labor migration from Ukraine from 2014 to 2022
Content:Ukraine has been called “Europe’s Mexico” because the level of migration from both countries is comparable. At the same time, there were no structural prerequisites for such high migration dynamics. This means that the sociopolitical environment has played a dominant role in stimulating migration. Most of the works about migration of Ukrainians are a collection of statistical data with brief conclusions and forecasts based on it. I propose to look at the issue in a broader context, as a complex social and economic phenomenon. This analysis allows us to understand modern social processes in Eastern European countries and to revise the concept of “forced migration.”
14:00 - 14:20 Break
14:20 – 14:50 Kateryna Ivashchenko-Stadnik
Topic: Sociological perspective of Ukraine’s transformations since 2014: main shifts and potential for development
Content: We trace the most remarkable societal changes that have been observed since 2014 as compared to the preceding period of Ukraine’s transition from the post-Soviet to a European model of development. Are the observed shifts irreversible? What policy efforts are needed to build on the achievements and move forward on an evolutionary path? The analysis is based on the available sociological data.
14:50 - 15:40 Panel discussion
Panel discussion with today’s speakers about the chances and obstacles of reforms moderated by Michael Derrer.
15:40 - 16:00 Michael Derrer “Social change in Ukraine must be steered towards the common good.”
Closing of the conference:Conclusions and possibilities for generalization. What contribution can be made by business, international cooperation, and foreign aid? How to avoid wrong decisions based on a superficial understanding?
Simon Pidoux was Deputy Head of Mission in Kyiv before being appointed by the FDFA as the Swiss Special Representative for the Ukraine Reform Conference 2022.
Bálint Magyar is leading scholar for comparative research on post-communist states and economies. His conference presentation is entitled «Post-Communist Regime Trajectories and Challenges for Patronal Democracies», in which he uses his specific conceptual framework to analyze Ukraine.
"Eastern European economies and societies cannot be sufficiently understood using traditional economics and political science.”
Vladimir Dubrovsky is a Ukrainian institutional economist and a leading specialist on phenomena of corruption in his country.
“Things are not as they appear on the formal surface. How can Ukrainian institutions become truly European?”
Oksana Huss is a post-doctoral researcher. Her areas of expertise cover hybrid regimes, (anti-)corruption, and open government.
“Look at who defines corruption and how anti-corruption policies are formed, and you will understand the power dynamics in that society.“
Bálint Madlovics is a Hungarian political scientist, economist, and sociologist. He is a Junior Research Fellow, of the CEU Democracy Institute and the co-author of Bálint Magyar. He will explore the notition of «patronalism» in a presentation with the title "Relational Economy, Captured States, and the Concept of Oligarchs".
“Without understanding oligarch networks, wrong business decisions will be taken.”
Jacek Kurczewski is a well-known polish sociologist. He will compare Ukraine’s trajectory to that of Poland, a country that has undergone profound transformations in the past 30 years.
“Social transformation in Ukraine can benefit from the Polish experience.”
Mikhail Chaplyga is a well-known public figure in Ukraine, a publicist, NGO specialist, and frequent guest of TV talk shows. Here, he will contribute his observations about developments in the Ukrainian society and economy during the last 20 years.
“Well-intended foreign assistance may destroy the Ukrainian economy.”
Svitlana Shcherbak is a researcher with eighteen years of experience working with the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. Her works focus on the relationship between economics and politics, democratization and its distortions - populism, and plebiscitary democracy.
“What are the prospects of inclusive nation-building in Ukraine?”
David Dalton completed his doctoral thesis at UCL’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies in London. He is focused on the political economy of the modern Ukrainian elite. Before returning to University, he used to be an editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit.
“The reform of the oligarchy is a main condition for post-war reform and reconstruction.”
Denys Kiryukhin is a political analyst and social scientist. His research focuses on political development in post-communist states.
“Migration of Ukrainians is a complex social and economic phenomenon.”
Kateryna Ivashchenko-Stadnik is a multidisciplinary researcher with degrees in History (Donetsk State University), Sociology (Central European University, Prague and Warsaw) and International Development (University of London).
"Societal changes are not irreversible. An active policy can support the evolutionary path.”
Michael Derrer, the initiator of the conference, teaches economic sociology at HSLU. He also is a business consultant specialized on the countries of Eastern Europe. Presently, he is finishing a large research project entitled «Corruption, Extortion, and Power in Russia and Ukraine». Website
“Without a deeper knowledge of the social context, your project in business, cooperation or assistance is likely to fail.”
HSLU-Lecturer in dialogue with the experts on Ukraine
Christoph Hauser, lecturer and head of the Competence Center Management & Law at the Lucerne School of Business. He focuses on institutional economics and economic development.
Interview with Michael Derrer: Link to the Video
Aims of our Conference Series
- How does social change come about?
- How can rules and habits be changed towards the positive?
- Which are the levers for change?
- How can and how may the state try to influence people towards the common good?
- What contribution can informal leaders make?
To answer such questions, one must delve deeply into the specifics of a society. Approaches from sociology, institutional economics or psychology provide conceptualizations and theories that enable a deeper understanding. Therefore, they are very relevant for decision makers in the state administration and the private sector.
What the conference is not
This is not an event of a political nature, nor is it an aid campaign for Ukraine. The theme of the conference is not the present war, even though it obviously shapes the framework conditions for change in Ukraine. The participating social scientists present their socio-critical analyses and enter into dialogue with each other, with the aim of cognition. Since specific knowledge is a prerequisite for purposeful action, our intention is a humanistic one. The organizers are aware that the realization of this objective is challenging in the present circumstances.
- Scientific ambition and social relevance
- Interest in new ideas and their open and unprejudiced discussion
- Individuality, diversity, creativity and search for unconventional solutions
- Decision-makers of the state administration, business and nonprofit organizations will be able to better assess the context, risks and opportunities.
- The conference is open for the general public, in particular journalists, university teaching staff, high school teachers of history, economics or PPP, or anyone interested in further developments in Ukraine.
- Students from HSLU and other universities are welcome
- CHF 50 per day, for students CHF 25 per day. The cost includes a meal and two snacks at the HSLU premises.
- Optional dinner together, at your own expense, no registration required.