Dilemmas of Dissidence in East-Central Europe
Citizen Intellectuals and Philosopher Kings
Publication Year: 2003
Published by: Central European University Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations
In November of 1995 Jeffrey Isaac published an article for Political Theory which condemned political theorists en masse in the United States for failing to take seriously the revolutions of 1989 in Central Europe, through which “the face of world politics for five decades was transformed”(1995:636).1989 was a political milestone equal in scope...
Writing more than ten years hence, one cannot overstate the fact that 1989 represents a historical watershed of immense proportions. History either ended or began again.The defining twentieth-century struggle—between liberal democracies with their apparently superior market economies and authoritarian communist regimes with their ossifying and crumbling command economies—came to a sudden and unexpected demise. The former emperors of the Soviet Bloc were...
2. Poland: The Harbinger of Crisis and Collapse
The frequency of protest and instability in authoritarian communist Poland can be explained according to three competing explanations. First, Polish experiences are seen unique in the region: peculiar factors such as an institutionally strong and independent Catholic Church; the survival of private ownership of land and de-collectivization of agriculture; a history replete with both anti-Russian, anti-Soviet and working class uprisings...
3. Czechoslovakia: From Interrupted to Velvet Revolution
The Komunistická Strana Československa, or Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (CPCz), assumed power by engineering a coup in 1948, ousting their former coalition partners from power.1 However, the Czech communists had the strongest indigenous support in the region, a point that cannot be overemphasized. The CPCz had been legally operating in the country since 1921 (although was banned in 1938 and illegal during World War II). Reasons for support are also...
4. Post-1956 Hungary: Repression, Reform, and Roundtable Revolution
The failure of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was mitigated by the many “lessons” it provided, not only for the reconsolidation of reform communism under János Kádár in Hungary, but also for the generation of communist reformers in Poland and in Czechoslovakia who constructed their programs with an eye to avoiding the “errors” of 1956. Whereas Gomułka’s accession to power in Warsaw seemed to indicate how far one could go in nationalist deviation from the Soviet...
5. Intellectuals in Poland: The Tradition Continues
Polish philosopher Leszek Kołakowski left Poland in 1968 after his expulsion from Warsaw University, and therefore hardly warrants being categorized as a “dissident” in terms of the time frame of this study. However, as a revisionist Marxist who goes beyond revisionism, as a mentor to the generation of Michnik, and as the author of arguably the most important theoretical text of the Polish opposition of the 1970s, he must be included.1 The influence of his life, his work, and...
6. Opposition Intellectuals in Czechoslovakia
Václav Havel did not make his reputation as a political essayist or social critic, but as a playwright. During his eight-year tenure at the Theatre on the Balustrade in the 1960s in Prague, he honed his writing abilities as a master of the Czech theatre of the absurd.1 In Havel’s 1986 interview with Karel Hvižd'ala, he muses about the definition and meaning of absurd theatre...
7. The Democratic Opposition in Hungary
The “first generation” of Hungarian dissidents—for that is really what the Budapest School was—saw themselves not only as Lukács’ colleagues or students but described themselves as his disciples. Their self-chosen terminology is illuminating, because they both collectively and individually sought to utilize, extend, and reinterpret Lukács’ work not only in terms of his own life and struggle but more meaningfully in terms of their own...
8. The Dissident Contribution to Political Theory
In the preceding chapters, I have argued that largely in response to the failure of “reform communism” and the various revisionist approaches taken in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, a community of dissident intellectuals began to theorize about and organize against the political and economic stagnation of the 1970s and 1980s in each of their respective regimes. Separately, collectively and with great complementarity they developed an oeuvre of political-theoretical approaches, tactical insights, and recommendations regarding not...
Page Count: 515
Publication Year: 2003
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