Presentation on theme: "The Ruins of a Myth or a Myth in Ruins? Paul Blokker University of Trento."— Presentation transcript:
The Ruins of a Myth or a Myth in Ruins? Paul Blokker University of Trento
2 Myth: The myth of Central Europe as emerged in the 1980s Focus: The political-cultural dimension or a distinct set of ideas on the political Exploration: The significance of the rubble of the myth of Central Europe Question: Can these ideas on the political still speak to us today? The Myth of Central Europe
3 Identification : Some tangible aspects underpinning the Central European Myth –Distinct experience with communism –Salience of cultural capital and role of intellectuals –Distinct experience with modernity
4 The Myth of Central Europe Distinct experience with communism - Troubled relationship with the Soviet centre - Communism as imposed from without - Moments of dissent: 1956, 1968, 1980-81 - Revolutions/radical self-limitation of 1989
5 The Myth of Central Europe Role of the Intelligentsia - Ersatz elite: predominance of cultural elite or Bildungsbuergertum (Eyal, Szelenyi 1998) - Distinct role of intellectuals as vanguard, emancipators - Specific views of political philosophy, as intertwined with the everyday (Szakolczai & Wydra 2006)
6 The Myth of Central Europe Distinct experience with modernity - In contrast to Western development of modernity, interrupted experience - Unsettled modernity or alternate modernities (Arnason 2003; 2005): successions of liberal nationalism, fascism, communism, neo-liberalism
7 A Central European Political Culture? Prima facie evidence for distinct Central European political culture? 4 distinct ideas of the political and the role of political power in society : - the idea of anti-political politics, - an anti-foundational view of politics, - a valorization of multiplicity and cultural diversity, - an endorsement of dissent
8 A Central European Political Culture? Anti-political politics i. An engagement with politics by non- political means; a rejection of partaking in power and interest-based politics (as inherently corrupting) ii. An attempt of a society to give itself its own rules; a collective engagement with the common good
9 A Central European Political Culture? Anti-political politics A society does not become politically conscious when it shares some political philosophy, but rather when it refutes to be fooled by any of them. The apolitical person is only the dupe of the professional politician, whose real adversary is the antipolitician. It is the antipolitician who wants to keep the scope of government policy (especially that of its military apparatus) under the control of civil society (Konrad 1984: 227).
10 A Central European Political Culture? Anti-political politics Directly related was the idea of civil society Widely shared among the Central European dissidents: 'parallel polis' (Benda) or self- organization (Uhl) Civil society and self-organization were 'envisaged on a local level... [as] a call for the recovery of a more self-determining and less alienating political order' (Baker 2002: 38).
11 A Central European Political Culture? Anti-political politics I n dissident discourse, one can find a distinct sensitivity for smallness (Goldfarb 2009) and the need for the proximity of democratic politics: [t]here can and must be structures that are open, dynamic and small; beyond a certain point, human ties like personal trust and personal responsibility cannot work' (Havel 1985: 93).
12 A Central European Political Culture? Anti-political politics The basic aim of the self-organization of civil society, of independent and parallel activities, is the preservation and renewal of normality... the renewal of civic awareness and interest in the affairs of the community' (Dienstbier 1988: 231).
13 A Central European Political Culture? Anti-foundationalism - The critique of any form of overpowering, systemic ideological structure - Living in truth as a critique of political ideology and political systems subjecting the individual - Acknowledgement of fundamental flaws in both post-totalitarian and capitalist/mass-consumption societies
14 A Central European Political Culture? Anti-foundationalism And in the end, is not the grayness and the emptiness of life in the post-totalitarian system only an inflated caricature of modern life in general? And do we not in fact stand (although in the external measures of civilization, we are far behind) as a kind of warning to the West, revealing to its own latent tendencies? (Havel 1985)
15 A Central European Political Culture? Anti-foundationalism According to Jiří Přibáň (Czech legal scholar): [t]he demand to live in truth escapes every judgment and communicative procedure which seeks to define binding normative criteria of truth (2002: 49). In this regard, [t]he 1989 velvet revolutions proved that no discourse has the power to declare itself universal or sovereign and therefore to claim to be the normative basis for political institutions. There is no actual voice or discourse which can speak in its name and define its normative framework... Democracy speaks in many voices (2002: 50).
16 A Central European Political Culture? Multiplicity and co-habitation - A specific tolerance for cultural diversity (result of a learning process based on historical contingencies and because of the co-presence of a great number of small nations in the region); - An ability to preserve elements of Gemeinschaft in the region in contrast to the predominance of modern society in the West; - A continuous exposure of the small nations of Central Europe to external threats, and the related ability to live in a state of liminality.
17 A Central European Political Culture? Multiplicity and co-habitation Diversity is a given; if we are to respect reality, we must respect that diversity. Central European culture offers us a natural opportunity to extend our horizons (Konrad 1985: 109).
18 A Central European Political Culture? Multiplicity and co-habitation The strength of this part of Europe has always been the blending of religions and languages, of nationalities and cultures. This multinational, multicultural, rich mixture was able to produce a literature informed by the values of cultural pluralism and culture tolerance. The region was characterized by multinational states, states that united within their boundaries people who spoke different languages. Living together condemned people to tolerance. They either had to learn to live with dissimilarity or fight to the death. Such indeed was the fate of the nations of this area: they either lived together or they fought one another (Michnik 1989: 22).
19 A Central European Political Culture? Multiplicity and co-habitation Being Central European means learning to keep our nationalism, our national egotism, under control. We can't get rid of our national feelings any more than we can get rid of our personal feelings. We need to reach moral and legal agreements with one another, so that our nationalisms will gradually develop into more sensible Euro-nationalisms (Konrad 1985: 112).
20 A Central European Political Culture? Multiplicity and co-habitation Euronationalism is the principle of association between European peoples on a basis of autonomy, equality, and democracy. Perhaps the new nationalism of our Central European area will come together on the basis of this principle. The consciousness of ethno-linguistic communities is an elementary fact. The sophisticated nationalist seeks a worthy place for his people in the European family (Konrad 1985: 112).
21 A Central European Political Culture? Dissent - The mythical nature of Central Europe – sustaining its utopian dimension – fed in an important sense into the idea of dissent and anti-political politics. - Central Europe posited the frame of possibility, the horizon in which anti-political ideas and actions could be raised and perceived.
22 A Central European Political Culture? Dissent There are no Central European structures, but Central European political actions are thinkable: steps towards a common utopia, where military blocs would dissolve into peoples and individuals, and peoples and individuals would associate with one another in new civil configurations' (Konrad 1985: 115).
23 A Central European Political Culture? Dissent The relation of the Central European myth to traditions of dissent can be disentangled by referring to two elements: 1. a distinct historical experience of sacrifice, and 2. a politico-philosophical tradition with a strong attention for morality in politics.
24 A Central European Political Culture? Dissent - Example: Jan Patocka's notion of 'the solidarity of the shaken; dissident community of the shattered - As part of the Central European myth, it could be reformulated as the idea that it is only through tragic historical experiences, which disrupt the naiveness of normal everyday life, that one gains a truthful and deeper understanding of the meaning of politics, solidarity and the political community.
25 A Central European Political Culture? Dissent - C ivic virtue is an important element of Vaclav Havel's idea of a life 'lived in truth'. - 'The Power of the Powerless: citizens of communist societies could shake themselves loose from the entanglements of totalitarian control by simply not participating in standard communist rituals anymore.
26 A Central European Political Culture? Dissent The strategy of dissidence is applicable to the liberal democratic conditions of the rule of law because legality seeks to declare itself the sovereign legitimation framework there as well although this is done with the help of the moral vocabulary of human rights and democracy. Dissent is not only a political position and action. It is first of all an expression of the social requirement of understanding and comprehending every structure and normative system in order to make them legitimate (Priban 2002: 170).
27 Conclusions Relevance of the Myth beyond 1989 The argument has been that a Central European myth can be related to a Central European political culture, consisting of four components: - anti-political politics, - anti-foundationalism and pluralism, - the valorization of cultural diversity, - an ethic of dissent.
28 Conclusions Relevance of the Myth beyond 1989 Anti-political politics: despite a predominance of neo-liberal ideas and perceptions of politics as interest and power- based after 1989, distinct features of the legacy of anti-political politics can be traced. - e.g., institutionalization of forms of democracy with a kind of republican flavour, such as local democracy and self-government, as well as forms of direct democracy.
29 Conclusions Relevance of the Myth beyond 1989 Anti-foundationalism: revolutions of 1989 themselves rejected any kind of full-blown revolutionary idea (often mistaken for the absence of new ideas). Some observers have taken this as a most significant form of 'radical self-limitation', which can play an extraordinary role in, for instance, constitutional politics (cf. Arato 2000).
30 Conclusions Relevance of the Myth beyond 1989 Diversity: stimulation of a learning process, both within and without the region, not least in terms of the sensibility towards new forms of understandings of minority rights (cf. Ringelheim 2010).
31 Conclusions Relevance of the Myth beyond 1989 Dissent: significance also beyond the Central European experience; crucial nature of the ethic for dissent in modern democratic regimes plagued by the lack of legitimacy and threatened to succumb to forms of populism.