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The State‐Led Transition to Liberal Capitalism: Neoliberal, Organizational, World‐Systems, and Social Structural Explanations of Poland’s Economic Success1

University of CambridgeColumbia University

Neoliberals argue that rapid liberalization and privatization can transform postcommunist economies into Western‐style capitalist systems. Organizational sociologists argue that these policies produce a unique variety of capitalism, while world‐systems theorists argue that they lead to underdevelopment. This article advances a social structural alternative in a crucial case. Poland’s relative economic success resulted from prolonged state ownership and an interventionist state employing various industrial policy tools that facilitated efficiency‐enhancing market‐oriented restructuring before ushering in beneficial foreign direct investment. The resulting capitalist system closely resembles the typical pattern found in most late industrializers.