THE PREHISTORY OF POSTCOMMUNISM
Fall Term 1992
Istvan Rev
Department of History
CENTRAL EUROPEAN UNIVERSITY





Course Description

The course is designed with the ambition to deal with a certain political, economic, social, cultural system ( socialism as it existed in Central and Eastern Europe after World War II until the fall of the Berlin Wall ) from the perspective of the systemic collapse of its framework. The course is intended as an exercise of historiographical revision and aims to analyze the decades of socialism by concentrating on those features which might survive the collapse of the system or, at least, will have long lasting influence on the future.

The seminar will cover the political history of socialism but by using a somewhat unorthodox method: we will approach the history of the political system from the perspective of the culture of the period. Besides case studies from the region, we will use theoretical works based on concrete historical experience from different historical periods and regions.

The seminar will cover broad historical problems, like the use of power, the different forms of every-day resistance, the use and misuse of the past, history as a weapon in political battles, history as death ( both in abstract and in concrete senses ), the political use of time, memory and the "archive of repression", history as the art of forgetting.

The semester is organized into five two-weeks modules with a central theme for each module. This structure allows an in-depth analysis and gives sufficient time for all the participants to make use of the readings, to get prepared for the seminars. The five modules are the following:

1. The logic of economic behavior.
2. The production of crime and collaboration ( the logic of the show-trials ).
3. Spaces and means of resistance.
4. Public and private rituals.
5. Death and reburrials.

Besides the works, required to read in connection with the five module-themes, the students will read one of three fictional accounts of the period. ( Czeclaw Milosz: The Captive Mind, Milan Kundera: The Joke, George Konrad: The Case-worker ) During the seminars we intend to use fiction as document, blurring the strict distinction between historical document and nonhistorical account. We will try to make use of some of the new theoretical achievements of other disciplines on the borderline of history, like anthropology, historical anthropology, literary theory, historical sociology, philosophy of history.

The students will be asked to take a mid-term examination, one of the key materials of which will be The history of the People's Democracies by Ferenc Fejto. The result of the mid-term exam will make up 20% of the final grade, 40% can be reached by in-class activity during the semester, and the result of the final essay will count as another 40%. After the end of the semester, when the students return home for the winter holidays, they will have enough time to write a 15-20 pages long essay, based on local documents and connected to one of the themes of the five modules.


Detailed Syllabus

1st module: The Logic of Economic Behavior under Socialism.
Readings:
Janos Kornai, The Socialist System. The Political Economy of Communism. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1992.
Miklos Haraszti, "A Worker in a Workers State". Universe Books, N.Y., 1978. pp. 71-79, 95-97, 106-120, 138-157
Istvan Rev, "The Advantages of being Atomized". in: Dissent Summer 1987, pp. 335-350.

2nd module: The Production of Crime and Collaboration.
Readings:
Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, The Birth of the Prison. Vintage Books, N.Y.1979. pp. 3-31, 135-308.
Robert Conquest, The Great Terror. A Reassessment. Oxford Univ. Press, N.Y. 1990. pp. 3-22, 71-131.
Istvan Rev, "In Mendacio Veritas". in: Representations vol. 35., Summer, 1991 pp. 1-20.
Steven Greenblatt, "Invisible Bullets". in: Renaissance Self-Fashioning...

3rd module: Spaces and Means of Resistance
Readings:
Erwing Goffman, Asylums, University of California Press, 1962, pp. 175- 356.
Excerpts from: Janos Kenedi, Ivan Peto, Gabor Vagi, Hol zsarnoksag van Ott zsarnoksag van. Hettorony Kiado, Budapest, 1989.
Jim Scott, The Weapons of the Weak. Yale Univ. Press, N.H., 1986 pp. 18-45.

4th module: Public and Private Rituals
Readings:
Clifford Geertz, Notes on Balinese Cockfight. in: The Interpretation of Culture. Univ.of Calif. Press, Berkeley, 1972
Chris Lane, Socialist Rites...
Excerpts from Balint Magyar, Dunaapati. Muvelodeskutato Intezet, Budapest, 1987.

5th module: Death and Reburrials.
Readings:
Michel Foucault, "The Right of Death and Power over Life" in: The History of Sexuality vol.l.
Peter Brown, The Cult of the Saints. It's Rise and Functioning Late Christianity. Univ. of Calif. Press, Berkeley, l98l. pp. 86-105.
Robert Hertz, The Collective Representation of Death. Cohen and West, N.Y. 1966.
Istvan Rev, The Archeology of Resurrection, Mimeo, 1991


CRC-Curriculum Resource Center
CEU Budapest, Hungary
Modified: June, 1996


Rev_PrhPosco.F92Hist.v3

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