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Citizen intellectuals and philosopher-kings, the dilemmas of dissidence in east-central Europe, 1968-1989

by Falk, Barbara J.

Abstract (Summary)
This dissertation examines the theory and activism of indigenous intellectuals and dissident writers in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia from the late 1960s through to the downfall of authoritarian communism in 1989. It is suggested that not only is there a common historical trajectory in the postwar period in the three countries studied, but that there is a common logic and approach to the political theory and practice of the dissidents. Moreover, separately, together, and with great complementarity, the dissidents of the region developed an oeuvre which had a profound impact on the scope and depth of regime transformation and at the same time makes an important contribution to democratic political thought. Metatheoretically, it is argued that the East-Central European nexus of theory and practice provides us with a strong case of the impact of political ideas on the processes of political change. This study focuses on the writings of the major intellectual activists in the region who were most prominent in both non-party-state opposition movements and who theorized and reflected about their experiences. Included are Leszek Koiakowski, Jacek Kurofi, and Adam Michnik in Poland; Vhclav Havel, Vaclav Benda, and Jan PatoEka in Czechoslovakia; and Jhos Kis, Mikl6s Haraszti, and Gyorgy Kodd in Hungary. These dissidents were well-known and influential among their peers, across borders to each other, and many of their ideas were translated, published and disseminated widely in the West, The work of the dissidents themselves is examined with close scrutiny to two of their most consistently held theories and strategies: the reconstruction of "civil society" and the theory of "new evolution is my^ or "radical reformism". As well, their emphasis on personal responsibility, morality in politics, and non-violence is analyzed. The collective oeuvre of the dissidents is subjected to two lines of critique, one based on contemporary feminist theory regarding the gendered nature of distinctions between the public and the private, and the other informed by critical political economy. Finally, it is argued that the dissidents' contribution to democratic theory has continuing relevance for their own societies as well as for the West, and that their activism provides a compelling example of intellectual engagement in the public sphere.
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Source Type:Master's Thesis

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Date of Publication:01/01/1999

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