The Revolutions of 1989

By Vladimir Tismaneanu | Go to book overview

4

THE BREAKDOWN OF COMMUNIST REGIMES

S.N. Eisenstadt

In this theoretically challenging essay, political sociologist S.N. Eisenstadt emphasizes the role of critical intellectuals in the making of the revolutions of 1989. This is an important topic addressed by other contributors (particularly Timothy Garton Ash). While he notices the similarities with previous revolutionary cleavages in history, Eisenstadt insists on what makes the revolutions of 1989 truly new, unprecedented events of radical transformations of societies, economies, and cultures. He lists as major novel features: the absence of class conscious-ness among the revolutionaries; their commitment to nan-violent means of resistance and opposition; the conspicuous absence of charismatic, utopian, and teleological elements. Indeed, the implication of Eisenstadt's argument is that these were new types of revolutions, in which the ideological blueprints were programmatically rejected.

The revolutionaries 0/1989 relied on a broad vision of human and civic rights and consistently opposed the attempts to reduce their aspirations to an ideological straitjacket. Thus, Eisenstadt concludes, in agreement with the selections in this volume from Timothy Garton Ash and Jeffrey C. Isaac, that the revolutions of 1989 symbolized the opposite of the Jacobin (or Marxist) ambition to transform the world along the lines of an eschatological (salvationist) project. Compared to classical revolutions, these major events did not sacralize the center of politics and refused to engage in missionary zealotry. Eisenstadt offers an instructive discussion of revolutionary “causes” and “effects” focusing on the major contradictions of modernity. His interpretation of the risks and threats following the revolutionary drama is dose to Bruce Ackerman's and Ken Jowitt's contributions elsewhere in this volume.

* * *


I

The breakdown of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe has been one of the more dramatic events in the history of humankind, certainly one of

-89-

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The Revolutions of 1989
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Causes 17
  • 1 - What Happened in Eastern Europe in 1989? 19
  • 2 - Amidst Moving Ruins 51
  • 3 - What Was Socialism, and Why Did It Fall? 63
  • Part II - Meaning 87
  • 4 - The Breakdown of Communist Regimes 89
  • 5 - The Year of Truth 108
  • 6 - The Meanings of 1989 125
  • 7 - Nineteen Eighty-Nine: the End of Which European Era? 165
  • 8 - The Legacy of Dissent 181
  • 9 - Overcoming Totalitarianism 198
  • Part III - Future 203
  • 10 - The Future of Liberal Revolution 205
  • 11 - The Leninist Legacy 213
  • 12 - The Post-Totalitarian Blues 231
  • 13 - The Velvet Restoration 244
  • 14 - The Neighbors of Kafka: Intellectual's Note from the Underground 252
  • 15 - Is Communism Returning? 258
  • Index 263
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