Thinking through Transition: Liberal Democracy, Authoritarian Pasts, and Intellectual History in East Central Europe after 1989

Thinking through Transition: Liberal Democracy, Authoritarian Pasts, and Intellectual History in East Central Europe after 1989

Thinking through Transition: Liberal Democracy, Authoritarian Pasts, and Intellectual History in East Central Europe after 1989

Thinking through Transition: Liberal Democracy, Authoritarian Pasts, and Intellectual History in East Central Europe after 1989

Synopsis

"The book intends to be the first collective monograph of the post-1989 history of political and social thought of Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe. The project emerges from a deep conviction that the period of political transitions in the region, whether accomplished, aborted or abhorred, can and needs to be treated as a chapter in the intellectual history of political thought. Adopting the perspective of intellectual history, but inviting multidisciplinary expertise, the book aims to contribute to a more complex reflection on the post-socialist 'transition period' in East Central Europe and its historicization. While necessarily lacking comprehensiveness, it has a remarkable exploratory value for the future challenges in the field. The volume raises some of the most pressing problems of intellectual history of the period as addressed by the current scholarship, clustered into several major themes"--Provided by publisher.

Excerpt

Michal KOPEČEK and piotr WCIŚLIK

It is not easy for historians to apply their methods to a period that does not yet have a clear end. a historical threshold, usually immediately recognized as such, detaches the “historical” from our lives today, creates badly needed distance for the process of historicization and, last but not least, gives an era a name. in our case, it is not the namelessness of the period after 1989, but rather the proliferation of names that bears witness to the unfinished and open nature of the epoch after the fall of state socialism in Central and Eastern Europe. We do not know yet what will become the ultimate historical horizon, although some trends seem quite persistent. the interwar period could be named “interwar” only after the outset of the Second World War. in the same manner we might expect that, taking a pessimistic view, there will be a historical turning point giving our era the name of “inter-authoritarian period” or “democratic intermezzo,” or, taking an optimistic view, the period of democracy-building and overall Europeanization at least in part of the region.

So far the most frequent names include “democratic transition” or “transformation period,” the era of post-communism or post-socialism, the period of neoliberal hegemony and capitalism-building, or post-communist postdemocracy, post-Soviet post-colonialism and so on. Despite the intention to speak primarily about the present, each of the names, in its basic semantic structure, is still tied to the past, to what has been before, as the emblematic “post” insinuates. the only exceptions are “transition” and “transformation:” concepts oriented towards the wished-for democratic future. Symptomatically, these concepts are increasingly being abandoned, becoming a designation—with its strong normative connotations—of only one part of the epoch, vaguely speaking of the more optimistic, liberal oriented 1990s; the time of market and democracy building and of the imagined “return to Europe.”

* For critical reading of the early drafts of this texts and valuable comments the authors’
thanks go to Kristina Andělová, Pavel Kolář, Sabine Rutar, and Balázs Trencsényi.

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