At the beginning of the transformation process in Poland in 1990, local and regional governance structures were practically non-existent. The ‘voivodship’ was the regional administrative centre, which simply acted as a conduit for the policies of various government departments in Warsaw. The article reviews dominant perspectives on the transformation of regions in post-communist economies. While the evolutionary approach is a good critique of neoliberal approaches, it is argued that it assumes a consensus and congruity of local interests and underplays the role of exogenous influences in shaping emerging governance structures at both the local and national level. The framework adopted in the article is institutionalist, drawing on the importance of informal institutions in shaping local and national economies. Further, power and differentiated interests are seen as central to understanding emerging structures. Finally, the role of exogenous influences such as aid and investment are highlighted in understanding how the regions of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) are fitting into the emerging international division of labour. The empirical focus of the article is the Wrocław local economy, with particular reference to changes in the municipality. Transformation is explored in relation to three agents of change. First, the ‘nomenklatura’ who have converted their social capital of the past into economic capital during the process of transformation. Second, the role of workers is seen as important in either contesting or cooperating with the restructuring process. Finally, the role of imported intellectual capital through foreign investment, consultants and aid is viewed as central to instituting a new set of informal institutions compatible with the market.