Romania: an inclusive or extractive society?

(Excerpt from the doctoral thesis “Visual identity sources for Romania’s country brand,” author Bogdan Brînzaș)

All forms of institutional and personal manifestation are directly related to the type of society, and the way institutions are organized and function (and the state as a whole, consequently), they have a decisive influence on the success or failure of a society, defining two types of mentalities and organization: inclusive societies and extractive societies. Inclusive societies are those that, through organization and institutions, allow free initiative, support new ideas, guarantee ownership, and allow the evolution, competition, and coexistence of different visions and mentalities – essentially, they do not exercise monopolies (social, political, legal, economic or cultural ), and those of the extractive type are the coercive, monopolistic (dictatorship is, after all, a form of monopoly), planned, where decisions belong to a person or a narrow group of economic interests or class membership, and legislation can change depending on the needs of extractive groups or classes. By its very restrictive and self-protective nature, such a small ruling group cannot be open to new, evolving, innovative currents (cultural, social, economic, or religious) or ideas and will exercise firm and often discretionary and self-protective control over society as a whole to maintain a status quo of power and privilege, even if it means stagnation.

Inevitably, extractive organized societies are doomed to the nothingness of history, decline, or mediocrity. Documenting these types of institutions and societies shows us without fail that any systemic containment of ideas and evolution by a narrow caste inevitably leads to stagnation, regression, and bankruptcy. Inclusive societies have a much greater chance of progress because they are porous and open to novelty and evolution, giving way – sometimes not without struggle – to free initiatives. Such type of organizing of institutions will always allow new ideas to penetrate all levels of social or economic organization, being authorities with a role assumed by strategy and management and not by discretionary and conservative coercion of privileges. An approach applied to Romania in the same sense was taken by Hâncean and Vlăsceanu in the volume Romanian Modernity, arguing with the same arguments that Romania has gone through history – with few exceptions – consistently using the forms of extractive institutional organization, thus justifying the perpetuated and existing gaps. The authors also examine the modern period of Romania from this perspective (up to 2014), offering numerous examples and interpretations, going as far as explaining the current situation, starting from 1989, where they show that Romania continues the same “tradition” of extractive institutions as before, at the same time, showing without a doubt that progress and the reduction of gaps can only be achieved through “innovative institutions.” The authors preface the final conclusion of the first chapter, Political and Economic Performance, with a veritable manifesto for the future.

Experienced journalists have also addressed this topic, viewed through the lens of current Romanian society, through analyzes and usually acid comments on the political and economic situation characterized by resistance to change and the preservation of privileges. One of them is Cristian Pantazi; in agreement with the conclusions of the two authors, he wrote on the occasion of December 1, 2021, Romania’s National Day:
“The electric car, the battery industry, digitization, artificial intelligence, the fundamental change of education – all are realities that we see from Hungary to England, from Italy to Norway. Almost none of this is on the agenda of the new Power from Bucharest. An increasingly militarized power, which scares with its reflexes to preserve a status-quo that pushes more and more Romanians to emigrate. […] the state looks like a brake on the way to development, an obstacle put up by parties disconnected from reality. A huge festivity in which the planes in the sky and the stars on the shoulders try to cover the real political message: whatever you citizens do, we politicians take care to keep the system as closed and impervious to change as possible”.

Seen from the point of view of the purpose of this research, inclusive and extractive societies and institutions each present numerous arguments in favor of or against a strategic approach oriented towards the future, evolution, and change. If the extractive societies and institutions are focused on the preservation of some protectionist states of affairs and aggregations in society (status quo) and, as a consequence, will act consistently in this direction when organizing society, it is logical that they will never be open to an approach genuinely strategic in the direction of a country project that will inevitably lead to a strategic approach to problems the mother of the country’s image. Therefore, the first strategic step of the Romanian society and the institutions that lead and regulate it is to change the vision and orientation towards inclusive forms of organization. “Historically, institutions of the open access economic and political order have been shown to generate superior performance to those of the limited access order.” In the absence of this paradigm shift, any plans or tactics for creating a country image will be doomed to either failure, half-measures, or mere forms without substance, identical to the point of identification with the attempts so far. Or, they will be designed ab initio to serve the interests of extractive organized institutions or “castes,” both in the economy and in administration, education, research, medicine, religion, etc.