Academia in Upheaval: Origins, Transfers, and Transformations of the Communist Academic Regime in Russia and East Central Europe

By Michael David-Fox; György Péteri | Go to book overview

be extremely difficult to design a reliable method for distributing the burden.

Should the state intervene again and decide which academic organizations or individual research workers are performing well and which are substandard? In a representative democracy where the autonomy of societal institutions is respected and protected, the only mandate that the state might rightly assume in relation to science is to provide scientists with resources that are reasonable in view of the country's economic situation. The academic community itself must determine both the proportions and the mode of distribution of resources across the academic field as a whole. How to adhere to this principle in a situation like that in contemporary Eastern and East Central Europe, where critical scarcities go hand in hand with considerable overcapacity in the research and development system, remains the crucial issue.

There is little reason to expect that the "final" shape of post-communist science will be the same in the different countries of a region with such disparate levels of economic development, educational systems and performance, political cultures, and democratic traditions. But one thing these countries certainly have in common: They all run the risk that the scramble for resources might divide the academic community sufficiently to undermine any chance of attaining the consensus and cooperation essential for arriving at rational decisions. Such fears seem to be well founded, for example, in light of recent developments in the Czech Republic. According to a recent report, "Inadequate funding and internal squabbling are preventing the Czech scientific community from realizing its great potential," and the division of the academic community has resulted in a "sometimes bitter internecine war of words . . . between the Academy of Sciences, which boasts of sharp reforms and hefty budget cuts, and the universities, which [exhibit little willingness to introduce radical reforms and] question the academy's 'privileged' status. 45 Such a case would seem to necessitate outside political intervention.

Provided, then, that politicians do their part to support academic activity and, at the same time, respect academic freedom and autonomy, it will be a function of the maturity of the region's academic communities and their leaders to determine whether this freedom and autonomy emerge unscathed from the critically lean years of the 1990s.


EPILOGUE: THE LEGACY REVISITED

The initial version of this chapter was drafted in December 1994, on the occasion of the first meeting of the "Academia in Upheaval" project in Uppsala, Sweden. When I began my analysis, however, I

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