Political theorist Bruce Ackerman is among those who see the revolutions of 1989 as part of the global revival of liberal values at the end of the twentieth century. His approach extends the range of analysis beyond the boundaries of Eastern Europe and explores the collapse of authoritarianism in South Africa and Latin America. Thus, the victory of liberal principles in the former communist countries is part of a process that defines this late stage of modernity and redeems some of the long-forgotten non-Jacobin, emancipatory promises of the French Revolution. Enduring democratic achievements in the East will have a major impact on the successful construction of a pluralist united Europe. His vision of the 1989 upheaval is related to the approaches of Jeffrey C. Isaac and S.N. Eisenstadt in their essays in this volume in that he emphasizes the non-totalistic and nonutopian nature of these changes. What makes this contribution original is the insistence on 1989 as part of the global resurgence of liberal revolution as a world-historical possibility.
Like Poland's Adam Michnik, Ackerman is concerned with the transition from the first to the second stage of these revolutions. He argues that the rise of new elites and the postcommunist cultural tensions, including the apparent marginalization of the former dissidents, does not mean the defeat of these revolutions. History has not come to an end, he states in opposition to such prophets of the inexorable triumph of liberal democracy like Francis Fukuyama. Together with Jeffrey C. Isaac and Ken Jowitt, Ackerman anticipates a strong resistance to liberal values coming from clericalism and ethnic fundamentalism and warns against Western self-congratulatory illusions.
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It is one thing to sit on the sidelines and point emphatically to the window of opportunity closing upon the revolutions of Eastern Europe, quite another to act decisively and gain democratic consent to a constitution that defines the terms of political life for a new era. It would be wrong, moreover, to exaggerate the significance of my constitutional concerns.