Edward Lucas: From Havel to Habermas… Central Europe’s Missing Political Philosophy

by Chris Borgen

Edward Lucas has an essay in The Economist on political philosophy and the (r)evolution of central and eastern European politics centered on 1989. His essay begins:

They gripped the world, but left political philosophers yawning. According to Jürgen Habermas, a German philosopher, the revolutions that overturned decades of totalitarian rule in central and eastern Europe in 1989 were marked by a “total lack of ideas that are either innovative or orientated towards the future”.

In a sense that was right. One of the most memorable images of the extraordinary “Velvet Revolution” in what was then Czechoslovakia in November 1989 was a map showing a ladder, reaching from the depths of central Europe up a cliff, to the heights of the western part of the continent. “Zpět do Evropy” it read: “Back to Europe”.

For millions of people behind the Iron Curtain, abstract political philosophy and grand schemes had brought nothing but trouble. Vaclav Havel, whom the revolution propelled into Prague Castle as president, said his dream was to live in a “small boring European country”.

But actually Mr Habermas is wrong: a revival of the spirit of 1989 is just what both old and new Europe need. A Czech-born scholar from Harvard, Paul Linden-Retek, has recently finished a fascinating philosophical comparison between Mr Habermas and Mr Havel…

The Linden-Retek paper is available in a link from here.


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  1. It seems the link is not working.

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