In a sense, the structure of this book was similar to that of a movie "close-up," as the camera narrows in on a subject, and everything grinds down to slow motion. With each chapter, the empirical focus narrowed, and time seemed to slow down, until we reached the moment, on June 8, 1992, when two men sat enclosed in a room, facing each other, to discuss the future of their respective nations. By the time we got there, I hope the reader could recognize that not simply two men met in that room, but two radically contradictory forms of collective experience, tracing their history back to the demise of the Prague Spring in 1968. It is time now, however, to instruct the cameraman to change angle, widen the focus, and give us again a bird's-eye view of the scene.
This book was about intellectuals, professionals, technocrats, bureaucrats, and managers, and how their alliances, struggles, and divergent identities brought about the end of Czechoslovakia. It was thus also a reexamination of the idea of the "new class." What was at stake in this reexamination? Nothing more and nothing less than a self-critical inquiry into the meaning of our era, our own ideas and forms of knowledge. To my mind, the main obstacle in the way of such an inquiry was a certain narrative about 1968 and its aftermath as the death and disappearance of the "new class." Typically, this