PUBLIC LECTURE: A POLITICAL CENTAUR?
AN ATTEMPT AT A PARADIGM OF POST-COMMUNISM
Fall Term 1995
Department of History
CENTRAL EUROPEAN UNIVERSITY
Post-communism has come of age. It has been in existence for half a decade and the features it has assumed can be regarded as enduring. Indeed, political behavior in Central and Eastern Europe is now governed as much by the institutions established after the collapse of communism as by the communist legacy. The main characteristics of the postcommunist system can be summarized as "democratic in form and nationalist in content". The effective functioning of democracy - "effective" in this context being somewhat unfairly defined against an ideal-typical model of democracy in the West - is impeded by a variety of factors, notably the absence of an impersonal public sphere, the strength of homogenizing nationalistic ideologies, the emergence of consensual semi-authoritarian systems and the corresponding weakness of political and economic competition and civil society. But the significance of democratic legitimation should not be underestimated in the long term context, because this legitimation has within it the seeds of a shift towards a genuinely open society with self-limitation, feed-back and rule of law. In the interim, with greater or lesser deviation from this model, the post-communist states are likely to exhibit signs of instability, deviation from strictly defined democratic norms and abuses of power. A particular problem is posed by the rise of the communist successor parties, which have the historic role of enrooting a modernizing political and economic framework in the region against a relatively unfavorable economic background. If this attempt at modernization should fail, however, the option is likely to be very negative - some kind of nationalist, demagogic discourse may well be used to legitimate authoritarian systems.
1. Nationalism: what it does and does not do; nationalism and the legitimation of power; the ethnicisation of states and multi ethnic polities; nationalism and post-communism, a viable symbiosis?
Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities , 2nd Ed, (London: Verso, l 991)
(ed.) Charles Tilly, The Formation of National States in Western Europe, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,1975)
Anthony Smith, The Ethnic Origin of Nations, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986)
James G. Kellas, The Politics of Nationalism and Ethnicity (London: Macmillan,1991)
Joseph Rothschild, Ethnopolitics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981)
John McGarry and Brendan O'Leary, (editors) The Politics of Ethnic Conflict Regulation (London: Routledge,1993)
2. Post-communist political systems. Homogeneity and political contest; rule of law, markets, social strata with an interest in competitive systems, the nature of post-communist political parties; the communist successor parties and the post communist right.
Ken Jowitt, New World Disorder: the Leninist Extinction (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press,1992)
(eds.) Stephen White, Judy Batt, Paul Lewis, Development in Eastern Europe, London: Macmillan,1993)
George Schopflin, Politics in Eastern Europe 1945-1992 (Oxford: Blackwell,1993)
Francois Fejto, La fin des democraties populaires; les chemins du post-communisme (Paris: Seuil,1992)
Ralf Dahrendorf, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe (London: Chatto,1990)
Vladimir Tismaneanu, Reinventing Politics: Eastern Europe from Stalin to Havel (New York: Free Press,1993)
"The Exit from Communism", Daedalus, Spring 1992
After Communism: What?" Daedalus, Summer 1994
Vesna Pusic, "Dictatorships with Democratic Legitimacy: Democracy versus Nation", East European Politics and Societies, Vol.8, no.3 (Fall 1994)
3. Four states disappeared and hardly anyone noticed. The hows, whys and wherefores of the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union and the GDR.
C.S. Leff, National Conflict in Czechoslovakia (Princeton 1988)
David Olson, "Dissolution of the Czechoslovak state: Political Parties and the 1992 elections" Communist and Post-communist Studies 26:3 (1993)
Sharon Wolchik, Politics of Ethnicity in post-communist Czechoslovakia, East European Politics and Societies 8:1 (1994)
Christopher Cviic, Remaking the Balkans (1991)
Laslo Sekelj, Yugoslavia: the Process of Disintegration (Columbia University Press,1993)
George Schopflin, "Power, Ethnicity and Politics in Yugoslavia," New Hungarian Quarterly Vol.33, No.4
CRC-Curriculum Resource Center
CEU Budapest, Hungary
Modified: June, 1996
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