The Origins of Postcommunist Elites: From Prague Spring to the Breakup of Czechoslovakia

By Gil Eyal | Go to book overview

One
The Idea of the New Class

Sometime in the early 1980s, the idea of the "new class" ceased to attract the attention and imagination of social scientists, and since then has almost completely disappeared from public debate. The collective wisdom seems to be that this idea was a cul-de-sac: it was either theoretically wrongheaded, because the educated could never be a "class" or, in another version, it was a historical cul-de-sac in the sense that the project of the "new class" had died. It died in Eastern Europe with the collapse of the Prague Spring, and was eventually buried with the fall of communism; and it has died also in the West, because the generation of the 1960s "grew up" and compromised, and because postmodernism has put an end to all the grand narratives of the past. As the reader could gather from the introduction, I disagree with this collective wisdom, and would like to offer a different argument.

Why do I reject the prevailing wisdom about the "death" or nonexistence of the "new class"? First, I believe that such diagnoses are hopelessly mired in theoretical and ideological false dilemmas, which have pervaded the history of thinking about the "new class"; and second—and this is what a large part of this book is all about—most of the phenomena mobilized as evidence that the new class is "dead" are better understood as manifestations of a struggle internal to it, a struggle over the prototypical social role of intellectuals. Thus, this

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The Origins of Postcommunist Elites: From Prague Spring to the Breakup of Czechoslovakia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Contradictions ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Abbreviations xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • One - The Idea of the New Class 1
  • Two - The 1968 Purges and Their Consequences 35
  • Three - The Power of Antipolitics 59
  • Four - Games of the Upper Class 93
  • Five - The Making and Breaking of the Postcommunist Political Field 135
  • Conclusion 197
  • Appendix - The Elite and General Population Surveys 205
  • Notes 209
  • Index 231
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