1989: Revolutionary Ideas and Ideals

1989: Revolutionary Ideas and Ideals

1989: Revolutionary Ideas and Ideals

1989: Revolutionary Ideas and Ideals

Excerpt

The 1989 revolutions—and their sequel in 1991—that brought about the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe were undoubtedly among the most important events of this century. In some respects they can be said to be among the most important events of the past two centuries, bringing to a close, at least provisionally, a conflict of ideas and ideals that began with the French Revolution of 1789. No doubt it is mere coincidence that these revolutions occurred in the precise year of the bicentennial of the “Great French Revolution,” but it is impossible not to see some symbolic significance in this.

This book does not aim to give a narrative account of the 1989 revolutions; there are many such accounts to which the reader can be referred. Rather, it is concerned with the ideas and ideals that surrounded these revolutions. Everyone is aware that the 1989 revolutions were about much more than the fate of certain regimes in East Central Europe. They opened up questions about a vast range of issues that concerned Europe, the West, and the wider world. The aspiration of East Central European societies to “return to Europe” raised the questions, What is Europe, and what is its future shape? Their actions in throwing off communism and launching new political experiments reopened inquiry into concepts and practices that had long been neglected or taken for granted in the West: democracy, civil society, nationalism, revolution . . .

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