"Realism in politics worries people.
An interview with Czech philosopher Václav Bělohradský Václav Bělohradský (b 1944) is one of the leading figures of Czech intellectual life. A graduate in philosophy and Czech from Charles University, Prague, he has lived in Italy since 1970, where he is currently Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Trieste. Cited as an intellectual influence by Václav Havel in the mid-1980s, he was later one of the first Central European thinkers to examine the consequences of the "post-modern turn" for the region. After 1989, he was supportive of then Prime Minister Václav Klaus and his centre-right Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and often critical of the views of the new Czech President, Václav Havel. More recently, he has taken critical stances on globalisation, NATO, intervention in Kosovo and the role of the USA in the post-Cold War world. To jump to individual thematic sections of interest in the interview, click on the corresponding subject heading: Czechs Central Europe Post-modernism Liberalism The Left
Central Europe Review: When we suggested talking to you, some Czech contributors to Central Europe Reviewwere scandalised. They protested that you were personally responsible for the "absolute relativisation of values" in the Czech Republic. Why do you think so many Czech intellectuals find you and your views so controversial and unacceptable? Václav Bělohradský: The Czech discourse on "values, culture and morality" - what the novelist Karel Poláček rather untranslatably used to term šťavnáním - compensates for the political failure of the Czech nation. Here, I don't mean only the individual failures in the particular historical circumstances in 1938, 1939, 1945, 1948, 1956 or 1968, or the break-up of Czechoslovakia after the 1992 election, or the whole second half of the 1990s, when instead of building a democratic state, an arrogant new political and economicnomenklatura started to form in the Czech Republic, seizing immoral privileges for itself (take, for example, the multi-million crown salaries of the heads of Komerční banka, a badly managed, statesubsidised dinosaur). What I have in mind is the failure of the Czech nation in its relationship with politics generally, with politics as the constitutive dimension of Modernity. In their modern (and also their more ancient) history the Czechs did not succeed in becoming a political nation, and it is already too late now for them to do so. In our national history, politics was always "a matter for those foreigners in Vienna" (or Berlin, or Moscow). Czechs replaced it with [President of the First Czechoslovak Republic Tomáš Garrigue] Masaryk's gradualistic conception of emancipation through "cultivation of the mind of nation" based on "small-scale work," with Sokol gymnastic displays, poems, "moral truth" and "true values." Jaroslav Hašek, the celebrated author of The Good Soldier Švejk, described the enthusiasm of the Sokol movement in Prague thus: on the first day we were selling portions of roast pork for 1 crown 40, but when Wenceslas Square had been brightened up by huge, diverse crowds, we sold portions of pork for 3 crowns. A well-deserved demystifying look at Czech political culture. In the first days of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, in March 1939, instead of encouraging the nation to resist the invasion in some way, radio stations called on Czechs to "impress the Germans with their civilised character as an ancient and cultured European nation," what is referred to in German as a "Kulturnation." This substitution of culture andšťavnání about the values of a cultured nation for politics, typical of the period of the Czech National Revival, caused the political culture in Czechoslovakia to be incurably intoxicated with moralising hypocrisy, kitschness, narcissism and sectarianism, something mainly characteristic of
" valid in any era. The far-reaching message of the post-modern condition is. of body. there was the nationalisation of film studios and the expulsion of the Germans.
What made Czechoslovak Communism so repulsive. there were kitsch poems with lines such as "Tonight Wenceslas's steed stirred and the prince weighed up his lance. to say that "values have been absolutely relativised" in the Czech lands after 1989 . which has since the onset of the Industrial Revolution been the pivotal civilizational process conceptualised by the founders of modern sociological discourse. "the use of chemicals in agriculture. a politics of the Genome and of the Environment. as it is commonly interpreted. Political realism means first and foremost an "existential" acceptance of one tragic dimension of modernity: the irreducible pluralism of values.a vast failure with irreversible consequences. You just have to read Jiri Švejda's novel Moloch from the mid-1980s." against which the maverick country doctor played in the film by Rudolf Hrušínský is protesting.even. anti-political vein in Czech political thinking . is a political matter.stand outside good and evil.the baroque "Ragione di Stato" . a politics of moral consciousness." I sought to promote "political realism. and it is too late now for them to do so
the professional intellectual and literary milieu. But how do they relate to the rather rough reception you received in the Czech lands after 1989 as a "relativiser of values"? Bělohradský: When set against the background of the political history of the Czech nation. the Communist poet Stanislav Kosta Neumann.is monstrously cynical. Simmel or Toennies. However. CER: Such historical examples of the strong romantic. public life is being depoliticised and a false notion is spread that what really matters in our life is placed "above" politics. This is a consequence of the division of labour and globalisation. of mind. and even includes some allusions to ecology (!).are very interesting. in radical opposition to the traditional "anti-political" Czech discourse founded on a dichotomy between "decent people" and "politicians." or "civil society" and "parties. this pervasive politicisation of all aspects of human/non-human life: there are at present global and local politics of Truth. nothing is politically neutral.I am referring here to issues raised by the impact of the new "technology of heterological conception (conception outside a traditional family)" recently discussed in the Italian Parliament. In reality. in my view." I think this false consciousness is a product of films sucha as Vesničko má středisková. and even a politics of "fair Motherhood" . The film celebrates "values standing above politics." which merely serve to mask the failure of the Czechs in relation to politics as such. Smith. And after 1968. abstract extremism of literary and intellectual sects. Instead of a defence of Czechoslovakia's democratic state in 1938.the term absolute relativisation is an interesting paradox. or that interests of state . Mario Capanna." Well. or perhaps particularly. ever more dependent on each another. Weber. horrified the poet Jaroslav Seifert by asking if they had managed to hang Ferdinand Peroutka. Modern individualism is a struggle for emancipation from the sacred authorities of the past. the moral failure of writers in the 1950s . I hate summarising. has summarised the message of that period thus: "everything is politics. was that it was saturated with the special. which describes the ruthless and disrespectful greed of people during the "normalisation" period to rid yourself of any illusions about "pre-1989 values. there was the massively successful process of "normalisation" based upon the radical depoliticisation of national life. It is my firm conviction that the first step towards democracy in the Czech Republic should be the absolute relativisation of "values standing above politics. who had spent the whole of the Second World War as a prisoner of the Gestapo in the Buchenwald concentration camp.
." Instead of the defence of democracy after the Second World War. but this one summary I agree with. One of the leaders of the revolt of the 1960s in Italy. CER: What alternative view of politics were you trying to promote? Bělohradský: From the early 1990s. by the way . Think of the surrealists and their mania for expelling each other. the founder of the liberal-democratic review Přítomnost. When practically on his deathbed." This expression does not mean that the end justifies the means in politics. at the same time. this standing above politics is a fraud. for example. people are becoming more and more different from each another but. Durkheim. who was a moral authority for all Czech Communist intellectuals. I believe. within Czechoslovak Communism . Naturally however.the Czechs did not succeed in becoming a political nation. such as Marx.
Every individual has a right to his or her values.. in Czechoslovakia in 1918. and hence immoral." mere opinion. the core of "sympathy" as the basis of ethics of which Hume and Smith wrote. The final stop on this escape route is totalitarianism. The situation of modern people is a tragic one. the plurality of values is itself a great and generally shared value. Democracy. and no longer have to kill in the name of their convictions. by contrast.and the unrealistic. because they have only inadequate information and experience. but a politician has to decide today. and they contradict one another." The holder of an opinion is always more valuable and interesting than the opinion itself . We chose to have nuclear power plants and there is no way back. Politicians have to make decisions despite not knowing today which method of financing is the most correct one.finally accepted the reduction of religious faith to mere "opinio" in exchange for its being accepted into the democratic community.albeit hesitantly and incompletely . as was the case with President Beneš in 1938 or President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. to choose between ever more complicated alternatives." Realism in politics worries people. until such time as they are "in possession of the truth. to delegitimise politics by constantly making reference to an unending dialogue between values. a dialogue in which one person will in the future be in possession of the truth and everybody else will be redundant. which has usually stressed notions such as "truth will prevail" or. Hobbes's famous (and for Christian tradition scandalous) formulation of what we call "political realism" . People voluntarily reduce their convictions to mere "opinio. this is something a politician must reject as an unrealistic concept of "historical time. opinion is one of liberalism's great words. In a democracy such a time will never come. they cannot postpone their decision until they have all the information gathered. but politicians must make decisions about how hospitals are financed in the here and now. Bělohradský: A political nation emerges at the moment when the tension between the realistic political time . as the quality of his choice is already "metaphysically" guaranteed. Political realism means having a sense of the finite time of decision-making. CER: How does a fixation with values and truth relate to the problem of the "political nation" and the Czechs' failure to become one? After all. in a democratic society we have to make decisions about an ever greater number of things. never fade away. and yet. Even the Catholic Church has . However." and the views of other people are superfluous. Czech politicians have made momentous decisions. with their special truth. opinio. Liberal democracy has found a solution to this tragic "human condition" . You mention President Beneš's decision in 1938 to accept the Munich Agreement.Auctoritas non veritas facit legem . The Pope says "think of the needs of the sick" and allows his hands to be kissed. but a politician has to decide today
A dialogue between values never ends. for example.the time within which we have to make decisions . And.
the world from the standpoint of eternity. is based on the conviction that there exists no state in the system in which the opinion of other people is superfluous. It will never be possible to turn them off. and they seek refuge from it in an infinite (and thus irresponsible) discourse about eternal values. which elevates the
.this solution is institutionalised "freedom of opinion. each of them seeks to be the supreme value.. Religious believers look at the world from the standpoint of eternity. CER: This does seem a radical break with the a major aspect of the Czech intellectual tradition. Works of art. infinite time of art. and their consequences will remain with us for thousands of years. despite that. faith or morality is legitimately resolved. for example. to exercise a monopoly. but often they must decide absolutely. Or to put it another way. Politicians always makes decisions on the basis of mere opinions." Doxa. Czechs did create a national state and national political institutions.. it must be remembered.means simply that in the conditions of irriducible (religious) plurality political power must be founded not on the possession of Truth but on a "consensus about the general utility of the State. more recently "living in truth". It is unrealistic. unquestionable reasons for our decisions. values. but there are more and more values..this is a founding principle of liberal democracy.
Take the issue of whether to complete the Temelín nuclear power plant. Bělohradský: "Truth" as a category assumes that there exists some state of knowledge in which other people are superfluous: anyone who knows the truth doesn't need other people. because both the pluralism of religious opinion and the political necessity of choosing between alternatives with believers look at irreversible consequences are increasing rapidly. but we never have unequivocal.
single truth of the victor above the inconsistent. on the one hand. Stalinist lyric poetry and charitable foundations in today's Czech Republic on a continuum simply because they share a belief in some form of transcendent values. who. has the truth. A value does not describe what is but dictates what should be. People want to be liberated from the dramatic time of decision-making and are thus often willing to hand all power to someone such as Hitler. can a value demand? Violence is legitimate insofar as it is dictated by some great value." and.for sake worries people against or oppress your fellow citizens . CER: Do you really see a politics based on moral values as inherently dangerous? I understand. but we don't have time to analyse the historical context of the Cult of Antipolitics. "ideological conflictuality" were already key characteristics of the Czech state in the 9th century. because politics cannot be replaced by raising funds to buy wheelchairs for the disabled. And indeed it seems the age of lyricism is something the Czech nation has never grown out of. they have all been decided on the basis of 'opinions of relative validity'
. the Austrian empire in greater detail. of course. that you can place 19th century liberal nationalism. Solidarity with vulnerable people should always be a "civic" activity which does not seek to substitute itself for politics. Czechoslovak Communism was the culmination of the substitution of lyrical moralism for political realism: in the eyes of Czechoslovak Communist intellectuals. and thus contradictory." To sum up.by. they cravenly believe. perhaps even a little shocked. their political opponents were not "representatives of different legitimate interests" but moral and cultural monsters. in the Czech context talking about "values and truth" compensates for what is today an already irretrievable failure of our nation: an inability to integrate the relative and contradictory nature of values into our national life as the key dimension of modernity. Czech rhetoric. Mussolini or Stalin." is an instrument of the rule of kitsch.is a prerequisite of modern ethics. that way at least they can shirk the responsibility of making a choice between contradictory alternatives. They should involve themselves without looking down censoriously at politicians. How strong can this diktat be? What can everything be in order that a value should be or can apply? How much violence against other people. that there are gradations to your argument. The values of these foundations would quickly dissolve into conflicts between representatives of various legitimate interests between which politics has to seek a reasonable compromise.the new era of Communism. "feeble and frail social stratification. condition of pluralism . the Thousand Year Reich and so on. What I have always hated most in this country is the wide-eyed expressions of those who excused their collaboration the words "I believed in it. I consider hypocritical the behaviour of charitable foundations working for the "good of others" . maintains that archaeological research shows that. but I think many of our readers will be surprised. for example.who act as if what they are doing is the one and only correct policy. say. have generated the modern Czech anti-political or politically unrealistic discourse. conflated in various ways. these two characteristics. raising funds to help disabled people . This discourse is a sort of curse of all Central European (and German) political culture. But let's talk about values a little more. and thus an inability to become a political nation. or to scientists and experts. on the another hand. A moral discourse compensates for "frail social stratification. The book was originally to have been called The Age of Lyricism. for example. Public space in the Czech Republic is governed by a hypocritical moralism against which I have tried to speak out. to put things realistically. but how great? Max Weber distinguishes there exist no between an ethics of responsibility and an ethics of conviction. For example." The reduction realism in politics with oppressive political authorities withof which you have no right to discriminate of faith to mere relative opinion . Are there values so great that we may
truthful boundaries. power which is not legitimated by strong social stratification must be legitimated ideologically. in. The archaeologist Petr Charvat. compensating for its lack of political realism with a lyrical exaltation that "we have the truth and the values we profess are not relative. Naturally. To sum up. whom it was morally right to hang. Bělohradský: What I call the "Czech style of political discourse" is deeply rooted in our national history. Every person decides between their conviction that certain values are superior to others and their responsibilities to other people for the costs of implementing those values. which Kundera so immortally described in his most universal (and hence most Czech) novel Life is Elsewhere.
it might overshadow something. The idea of NATO as an instrument for the universal imposition of "human rights" and hence of "ethical wars" shows how this utopia works in reality. The first Spanish edition of
In one of his lectures on the literature of exile. for example. and Milan Kundera successfully fought it with the concept of "Central Europe. How would you answer this question . After all. the order of the chapters was modified so that all the characters were together. In one of Karel Čapek's famous Apocryphal Tales."
. but until 1989 it was employed very little outside the region itself. was rewritten in a flowery style by some veteran poet. a culture only a philistine could break from its historical context and reduce to a mere "testimony of life under Communism. is supposed to be the dictate of reason .is the first prerequisite of democracy.
the egocentric conceit of the West was offensive. And there exist no truthful boundaries. and the greatness of a politician is that he does not seek such an escape but takes responsibility for his or her decisions. to found ethics on knowledge. The term "Central Europe" is widely used today. say. the boundaries between landscapes have to be redefined. The Italian philosopher Vattimo speaks of "hermeneutics" or the "art of interpretation" as the koiné of democracy: to interpret means to plant our utterances in a verbal landscape in which they fit in." The utopia of the West is to deduce "what should be" from "what is." The undoubted persuasiveness of the concept did force Western readers to redefine in their own minds the context of a whole number of works from the imaginary "Eastern Europe" to the historically real Central Europe of Kafka. Broch. Even the first French edition of The Joke was arbitrarily rewritten in a redundant baroque style considered "more proper" by the translator. unify it."
CER: If we could turn to a slightly different theme. the cost of nuclear war? There is no escape from this dilemma. The British historian Timothy Garton Ash even wrote an essay called "Does Central Europe exist?". for example.does Central Europe exist? Bělohradský: The concept of "Central Europe" gained world-wide recognition thanks to Milan Kundera." Eastern Europe is merely a military concept and has no historical legitimacy.promote their validity at any cost . bridge it or act as a short cut . Wittgenstein. the American publisher of Ludvik Vaculík's The Guinea Pigs supplied the book with a quite false sleeve note." that is. because the publisher said to himself . and Central Europe exists also with its officialdom and its multi-national culture. Kundera told these lazy Western readers. and Milan Kundera successfully fought it with the concept of "Central Europe"
the novelLife is Elsewhere. bulldoze the landscapes from which they emerged. so it has to be flowery.at. The egocentric conceit of the West was (and still is) offensive.something against which no one has the right to protest.it's about a poet. He does not say "orders are orders" or "laws must be obeyed" but "these are my orders. Petr Bílek analysed the workings of the process by which the unfamiliar context of a work of literature is mediated for Western literary consumers. Understanding that every truth belongs to a landscape in which it is useful . Pilate compares truth to a landscape which we might find unfamiliar but which cannot be incorrect. Musil and Hašek. their proximity and hierarchies have to be decided upon. stating that the author had been sacked from the newspaper where he worked on 21st August 1968. Politics has its own unforgiving imperative: truths shift their ground. they have all been decided by us merely on the basis of "opinions of relative validity. What is dictated by a certain historical group." Kundera was thus struggling against the conceited and arbitrary way in which powerful Western publishers cut down any text "from over there" to fit the mental horizons of the limited Western reader. He used it to fight against the arrogance and lazy narrow-mindedness of Western readers who placed Kundera's works in "Eastern Europe" and read them "politically" as an account of life "behind the Iron Curtain under Communism. it wasn't literature but a record of life "over there. Freud. the rich industrial nations. too. In the first English edition of The Joke. You have written a number of essays and articles on the experience of Central Europe. Russia exists with its demons and its great literature. Western readers weren't interested in the complexity of Kundera's composition.
"were in possession of the truth" and organised balls. a scandal which was threatening their moral credibility. intellectual aura In doing so. rather than citizens of a supra-national Austria. an experience whose fateful meaning Central European literature and philosophy sensed with exceptional perspicacity. as Doderer wrote. within ourselves. the expansion of NATO or scientific progress. Secondly." says the doorman. as Josef Roth put it in his novel The Capuchin Crypt. In the thin. I interpreted Central Europe as a place where people underwent an existential experience of great historical importance for modern Europe. Firstly. CER: What about Central Europe as metaphor? You used the word "instructive. whether it be the necessity of economic growth. abstract ether of the Law. "The Lie is thus becoming ruler of the world. sang "Wacht am Rhein" instead of the Austrian anthem "O Lord Preserve Our Emperor. that is. about other possibilities. globalisation. interest in Austria-Hungary. it struck a chord with a prevailing mood in the Europe of the late 1970s and the 1980s. we allow for the possibility of different answers. These chances will never return. mainly Viennese. played a great role. mainly because of German-speaking Austrians who. They did not fight determinedly or consistently for their political independence but instead wrote poems." They wanted to be part of a powerful German Empire. it anticipated the great themes of the post-modern turn: the fragmentation of traditions. The whole of
all that remains of Central Europe Central European literature and philosophy analyses the absurdity that the today is merely a impersonal language of legality and legal clauses injects into people's lives . Central European.Kundera's inventive piece of counter-mystification was successful for three reasons. although. when Europeans sensed that the cutting of cities such as Prague and Budapest out of the context of European unification was a scandal for European historical consciousness. Central Europe is an opportunity missed forever. This can be seen from the street names of Sudeten German towns at the end of the last century as well as from the ill-fated results of all the attempts to democratise and federalise Austria and grant the languages of its nations equal rights. of the imbalance between the nations of Austria and thus of the final end of any hope of federalising Austria. unlike the avantgarde. The idea of the Austrian state as a "close union of small Danubian nations" that the 19th-century Czech statesman František Palacký wrote of could never be politically realised. Are we really allowing for the possibility of different answers when we ask if globalisation is necessary today?
." What is philosophical or historically instructive about the demise of the old Mitteleuropa? Bělohradský: In the late 1970s in Italy. the ambiguity of the life world was put into uniform and subordinated to the relentless coherency of official procedure and the absolute command of the Office.
Everyday life in Austria was suffused by the impersonal language of the law and by a bureaucratic ethos like that of no other country in Europe. Indeed. because of the will to power of the Germans and Hungarians. because. was a direct cause of Austro-Hungarian dualism. their inadequate sense of the state. The reduction of legitimacy to legality was seen as a categorical civic imperative. CER:Do you think this historic Hapsburg legacy in Central Europe is still politically relevant today? Bělohradský: As a political concept. as the model of a supra-national state whose demise was highly instructive. Asking questions only has meaning when. the turn towards language. the Czechs also bear a great deal of the blame. And thirdly. it was seeking to preserve its unity in an era dominated by the demons from old Vienna of nationalism. modernism exercised a powerful fascination. that Danubian monarchy which was only an unstable collection of European peripheries. They were historical and thus only appeared once on the horizons of our life worlds. the turning away from the cult of history. The non-political character of the Czechs. I would immediately add. any impersonal necessity is a lie tearing us away from our real life chances. Kafka summed up this hegemony of bureaucratic necessity in Joseph K's dialogue with the doorman guarding the entrance to the Law: "You don't have to consider everything to be true but to be necessary. Truth is always an experience about alternatives.the abstract necessity contained in official procedure and the unrelenting strictness of powerful the bureaucrat which the Austrian state elevated into a sort of new secular religion." replies Joseph K. and in the 1980s at Kundera's seminars in Paris.
we will be unable to redefine democracy "post-modernistically. It anticipates the post-modern rejection of the neutrality of science and law: nothing is neutral. In the Czech lands today a "winners of the Cold War" discourse prevails according to which Communism was a criminal system over which NATO. multi-cultural societies.. How would you answer this question today? Bělohradský: The contemporary Czech poet and philosopher Jiří Gruša. Do
. all measurement serves some form of Power.it dissolves the metaphysical foundation of the society and to this extent is an emancipating force. We have definitively stopped being an "anti-entropic centre.as part of a polemic with my liberalism . we should not forget that it was a system that had emerged from the spirit of Western philosophy. who spent many years in exile.. the philosopher Jan Patočka pointed out to me many times . CER: In 1991." as our Czech McCarthyists put it
the intensity of the struggle for survival.
CER: In the columns you wrote for Mladá fronta Dnes in the 1990s you introduced notions of post-modernity very directly into a Czech context. The discourse that has been taken up by most of the nation. Scottish economics and French utopian socialism as the "three sources and components of Marxism. but it was an opportunity which we did not manage to take. orders someone to do something. I should add. separates someone from someone. In the article you refer to.prosperity and the scientific management of society. It brought social equality. This is a shameful lie. the mass expansion of education and a reduction of
post-Communist Czech journalism reduced our experience of Communism to mere "moral devastation. Lenin was right when he defined classical German philosophy. you asked an interesting rhetorical question: would it be possible for the post-Communist democracies of Central Europe to make a "Leninist leap" over the era of consumerism that Western Europe experienced in the 1960s and 1970s. under the heroic leadership of big chief Ronald Reagan. In these countries people tasted modernity in its decisive and most pervasive form. which is an arrant mystification of the past." as our Czech McCarthyists put it.the power of professional organisations posing a threat to democracy and a skein of abstract. in a column you wrote for the Mladá fronta Dnes newspaper. was a sentence my students adored. Bělohradský: Communism offered us the opportunity to leap over a certain phase of Western capitalism. fragmented.. Communism contained great emancipatory force. once wrote that human experience in Communist countries was one of the anti-entropic centres of our age. every law denies something.that despite all the absurdity of the Communist present. dreamt that we would be able to leap over European corporatism . as can be seen from the massive success of the recently released Czech film Pelíšky(Cosy Dens). [first post-1989 Prime Minister] Václav Klaus. Havel wrote in the Power of the Powerless that Communism was only a "convex mirror of the inner direction of Western modernity". Despite all its violence. emerged victorious. I remember reading those lines myself as a student in England in the 1980s and being astonished and fascinated by them. People from Western Europe and North America often see Central Europe as relatively backward in comparison with their own post-modern." The crisis of Communism is to a great extent the crisis of modernity generally. I also say that without experiencing the ephemeral and chaotic character of the consumer society. or gives something to someone. Post-Communist Czech journalism has taken up this "winners of the Cold War" discourse and in doing so has reduced our experience of Communism to mere "moral devastation.but we did not manage this. The bi-polar world was based on a pact which was mutually beneficial to both sides. for example. and this." to the detriment of everybody I'd say.The Central European critique of the flight to necessity is still very much alive. One of the founders of Charter 77.
CER: Yes." The affluent society or post-industrial consumerism has its historical role . Its main goals were the same as those of capitalism . or something from something. initiative-stifling legal regulations administered by a rapidly self-enriching lobby of lawyers .
independence and creativity. it located the meaning of life "beyond" it. The basic productive forces of post-industrial society were science and education and thus the most productive investment was investment in people and their specific qualities . Habermas's "discursive ethics" is compensation for the disintegration of hierarchies in post-industrial society and society's lack of transparency. when Daniel Bell invented the idea of "post-industrial society. for example. I conceive of the whole of the human subjectivity originating with Descartes as compensation for heliocentrism: the Earth was no longer the centre of the cosmos." the sweeping enthusiasm that Durkheim speaks of in his sociology of religion." It uses the term to describe any force whose actions separate present time from past time and give it new meaning: science. this hope is the source of the modern "effervescence. which are devaluing the standpoints of the past into mere historical prejudices at breakneck speed. taken as "practical proof" that Man-the-Thinker was changing the world. It was the history of this world which would bring the righting of all wrongs and within which a "New Man" would be formed. In this Marquardian spirit. by contrast. innovation and a growing mobility and communication. Modernity is faith in the coming of a new. post-industrial society could not be interpreted using ideological categories such as the proletariat. was Communism. technology. projects the eschaton. Kant created a model of philosophy of actuality in his article "What is the Enlightenment?". Western philosophy has a special concept for this gulf between past and present: "actuality. an expression he used to denote a key need felt by modern people: the need somehow to compensate for the consequences of progress. Man's supreme form of compensation for having to live in a world defined by science. was venerated. final meaning or salvation into the history of this world. This idea was the great religion of modernity. as "man becoming master over himself. For Marquard. the Marxist discovery of the final meaning of human history.you really think ideas of post-modernity are relevant to the region? In what sense are Czechs or other Central Europeans "post-modern"? Bělohradský: Let's recall first of all that the prefix "post" had been closely linked with Communism since the late 1950s." Post-industrial society was a political myth which significantly redefined the post-war world: it persuasively introduced the idea that there was a discontinuity between industrial society and post-industrial society. It is from this source that the idea of socialism drew its epoch-making energy and pathos. man was lost in infinity. the "human sciences" are compensation for lost traditions: the radical-Marxist revolts of the 1960s in Germany are sons' compensation for their parents' obedience and failure to rise up against Nazism in the 1930s. CER: There are many competing definitions of post-modernity and the post-modern. There is undoubtedly a hidden connection between the adjectives "post-modern" and "postindustrial": the common idea of discontinuity in the history of industrial society. it was necessary to start from man. Communism was supposed to "humanise" itself. In the article he defined actuality as overcoming the dependency we have caused ourselves." Modernity. the end of alienation." as Pascal's most famous reflection has it. the capitalists. a world in which he was a mere reed. but the maxim "I think therefore I am" rescued everything. that is. which was the ideological justification of the "convergence of all political systems around a new and increasingly more human form of modernity" spoken of in the Kennedy and Khrushchev era. Human labour. from his thought and perceptions of the world. the struggle between capital and labour. dead because present is radically different from past and time is not cyclical but linear. Man might be a reed in the cosmos but he was a "thinking reed. as we can still sense in the writings of Masaryk." Karl Löwith has shown that faith in "actuality" is nothing more than the secularisation of Christian hope. Once again.qualities such as inventiveness. of "the
. The 1960s were suffused from top to bottom by this myth of discontinuity. Could you perhaps just clarify how you understand the term? Bělohradský: The German sceptical thinker Odo Marquard introduced the expression Kompenzationsprinzip into contemporary philosophy. in the history of salvation or the "other world. because oppression did not pay economically. Consequently. the happy ending. However. the real history of humanity began with Marxism. but one in which past experience is just an obstacle. using the vocabulary of Marxism. the market. and only free people could make a contribution to the development of the system. more rational world. history as a sweeping narrative of human subjectivity. Christian hope was addressed not to the history of this world.
but no sense of living connection or a common fate among nations. Man disappears from philosophy like "waves washing away a face drawn on the seashore. they free themselves from the need to "be the subject.. Broch. Public space is governed by a "polylogy. post-modernity is the culmination of the process of secularisation. you yourself have written of the breaking down of shared identities into a large number of "inbetween worlds" (mezisvěty). Musil. I use the word to mean the worlds." a multiplicity of vocabularies. and who amongst us knows anything about contemporary Polish philosophy? However. other religions of Communism pulled nature deep into human history and elevated human labour into a force for salvation. This was the expression the Latin poets used to denote the spaces between worlds where cold winds blew and where only gods dwelt. I well remember the repercussions of this in the rituals of Growth only a Czechoslovakia in the 1950s. In an article entitled "Post modernity and Post-Communism" (European Review. none of them
. which produce the democratic public space of the West. anti-monumental
fundamental role is played by "literature. Czechs know very little about Hungary. In his Building of a State. What are the consequences of this for a region such as Central Europe? Bělohradský: As I've said. and of the artist's position as writing "for society. the notion of a work of art as a network of references to other artefacts." eccentric descriptions of the world. grimacing face forced upon us "in the interests of humanity" by the apparatuses promoting the growth of Growth. In these worlds a
feudal or communist public space was metaphysical. substitute for Totalitarianism is only an extreme form of this titanism. Gödel. globalisation and other religions of Growth only a functional substitute for Communism and thus necessarily developing into a totalitarian forms of Power? Is totalitarianism not already present in this need for compensation? My answer is yes. globalisation and active side. because of a certain organisation of knowledge and the working of certain methodologies and apparatuses. Freud.
The question which still haunts me is this: are consumerism." as opposed to the modern artist writing "against society. A postmodern person releases nature from his history and accepts his status as one living being on Earth.Are consumerism. CER: A theme that concerns many writers on post-modernity is the fragmentation of social identities.. but I share this position with all living beings in the cosmos. I'd like to say a few words about the expression "intermundia" or in-between worlds. CER: This notion of Big Ideas of the modern world as a rather worthless form of compensation is fascinating.a history conceived as a process of self-discovery . magnificent and monumental." I think that the Man who compensated for his cosmic insignificance by defining himself as the "subject" is starting to disappear. In this sense. feel a sense of solidarity with their mortal existence and am not trying to escape from it into an eternal world of ideas. Since the mid-1990s. what was strong in Central European culture has been transfused into postmodern culture: Wittgenstein." of a new world in which Man created himself through his own labour. You must know the conclusion of Foucault's Les mots et les choses: Man is a recent discovery and became the main problem of philosophy in the last three centuries. but nevertheless. but I'm not sure it amounts to a definition of post-modernity. the waves of a new ecological sensibility. Hašek or the Prague Linguistic Circle. Masaryk rightly sensed the functional "titanism" of German philosophy. we are starting to ignore the Slovaks. I am indeed a reed in the cosmos. of the need to compensate Communism? for Man's being lost in the cosmos." a select being in whose history . Segedy-Maszák defines post-modern culture as intertextuality. which I use often. All that remains of Central Europe today is merely a powerful intellectual aura from old Vienna. a new solidarity among the living beings on Earth.something absolutely different is happening from what occurs in the lives of all other living beings on Earth. selfish. I prefer to define post-modernity more philosophically: it is an era in which people are freeing themselves from the need to be compensated for having to live lost in the infinite cosmos constituted by science. becoming a patriot of planet Gaia as a whole. a mixture of different genres whose overall effect is to subvert objective and official versions of the world. is slowly erasing the cruel. January 1998). Post-modernity is a phenomenon which is not easily definable. its enormous compensatory function. democratic public space is farcical. when these methodologies and apparatuses are replaced. canons and languages which are not hierarchically arranged from top to bottom." These are certainly constitutive elements of the post-modern style.
immaculate version of the world." for example." on "laughter. In the competition between vocabularies.is the genuinely universal feature of the West. In his epoch-making reflections about the Subject. according to which this polylogy is a Roman heritage: this sense of "diversum" has been imposed on us by the power of Latin culture. We have to think up new connections for the landscapes in which we plant our truths. Currency laws allowed the English. Such currency control regulations are irritating." because it does not belong to anyone but is something between us. as the sweeping electoral success of Mrs Thatcher confirmed. a Communist paradise visible on the horizon.. how would you define it? Bělohradský: My liberalism has always been a critique of Foucaultian pastoral power and caring institutions. magnificent and monumental. what emerged more and more clearly at that time. I remember vainly trying to change pounds into francs in London." but also on that of "risus. Consequently. I don't necessarily see any close connection with the welfare state. Anyway.000 lira. that "polylogy" and its historical product . I also remember that the day after Mrs Thatcher came to power.living in "in-between worlds" . How do you explain these apparent contradictions? Bělohradský: I certainly am not a right-wing liberal." I think." the most proper product of the different "diversa." of farce. it forces us to see the landscapes of our utterances and thrusts us into a windswept "inbetween world. For every version of the world there exists a counter-version. recall having similar experiences in a bank in Czechoslovakia in the early 1990s.. when the pastoral power concentrated in the welfare state reached its peak. to one single. the boundaries between our landscapes of utterance collapse. hospitals and public sector employees. The state was starting to become like de Tocqueville's shepherd. and also emerged at the level of mass perception. of the laughter that such Magnificient Monologues provoke. CER: To return to your earlier answer. It is certainly no coincidence that Michel Foucault began his critique of "care" as the most dangerous (terminal) form of Western power after experience of the Swedish welfare state. politicians. the pharmaceutical industry. Foucault shows that the left-wing interpretation of modern history as Man-the-Subject fighting for his own authenticity against the state. whose free institutions liberals hold sacred. I do not claim any privileged value for my perception of Britain in the 1970s. I was instinctively opposed to this "caring" state and to the pastoral power concealed within it. Bělohradský: Naturally." I like Bakhtin's thesis." where meaning is not guaranteed or assured by anything beforehand." or counter-versions of the universe. roughly 600 marks. capital and false consciousness
. something foreigners were forbidden to do by one of more than 100 currency regulations. nevertheless. they are in a state of constant competition and tension. these humiliating regulations disappeared. Democratic public space is farcical. But can free public space subvert the current hegemony of the globalisation nomenklatura and its Magnificient Monologues?
CER: Politically you are a right-wing liberal. its product was a "hinter-world. but are used by a variety of governments in a variety of contexts. however. because we made the interest of one historical "us" into the "interests of humanity. genres and languages.exercises any hegemony. if yours is not a right-wing liberalism. Freedom was draining away. I do. however. anti-monumental. We know that Western universalism brought massacres and the Inquisition. bureaucrats. democracy is based not only on the Roman notion of "ratio" and of "lex. At the same time. Anyone who has encountered it can no longer return to the innocence of monologue. you often warn against the dangers of globalisation and consumerism. of course. which I remember as a time of relative security and prosperity. to exchange only 80 pounds a year and Italians to exchange about 800. was that the welfare state was a paralysing structure of sectional and corporative interests: trade unions. Speech is a "medium. for every universe there exists a "diverse. Feudal or Communist public space was metaphysical. I should remind you of the 1960s. He is incurably infected by the Latin tradition of "risus. CER: We obviously have very different experiences of Britain in the 1970s. herding his flocks onto pre-designated pastures.
my liberalism is a set of philosophical and practical positions inspired by the conviction that there is no end-state for the system. Our "selves. whilst Václav Havel really is convinced that society should be governed by the most moral. a thesis I took very seriously: "What individualism teaches us is that society is greater then the individual only so far as it is free. my liberalism has been a defence of individualism in the sense of the following thesis of Hayek. is also trying to prevent them." and I viewed this shrinking of society as a great threat to human freedom and dignity. Frankly. until at length our concerns are shrunk to the dimension of our minds. as Edmund Burke warned us. educated and altruistic leaders does not change this.advertising . But pastoral power is the greatest danger for people's freedom regardless of who wields it. I was horrified by the pastoral power so cleverly managed by leftist Italian "organic intellectuals" in the 1970s. Only in liberalism do we find this respect for society.acting as mere functionaries in the execution of the orders of Truth. In so far as it is controlled or directed. most educated and most altruistic individuals. Foucault's rejection of "authenticity" is extraordinarily actual. Secondly. massive and powerful they might be. that the Communist party should progressively encapsulate and integrate all other socio-cultural organisations and institutions in a system regulated by the single Party. what we consider to be our authentic "selves. only in his or her own name. To return to the start of our conversation. I become familar with a particularly insidious form of pastoral power." is the product of technologies of power incorporated in the modern state." the way in which we see ourselves and wish to see ourselves. In Italy. such as confession. to Czech politics and your support of to Czech Prime Minister Václav Klaus and his Civic Democratic Party (ODS)? Bělohradský: I think that Václav Klaus knows of these dangers and. I conceive of liberalism as a theoretical and a practical struggle to ensure that society always remain bigger than all the individuals and groups of individuals within it.in such a way that members of this party would find within it all gratifications and experiences they previously found in a plurality of organisations.'" It seemed to me that the Left wanted to "shrink society to the dimensions of the minds of those governing it. our subjectivity. have been forced upon us by the pastoral power which the modern state has developed from older Christian practices. submitting to the authority of the father and so forth. that theorised by Antonio Gramsci. As a liberal. to organise a new type of mass political party . which will not respect anything that is not consciously controlled by individual reason. however well-organised. 'be well assured that everything about us will dwindle by degrees." CER:It's interesting that you stress society and the "social. when our interest in ourselves is clearly managed and manipulated by that most aggressive form of pastoral power . I consider myself more of a social democrat than the official Left.is itself a form of false consciousness. and I sought to resist it with all the moral and intellectual commitment available to me. The historical role of what Gramsci rather sinisterly calls "intellettuale organico" is to implement a totalitarian politics whose two constitutive features are the following: firstly.the Communist Party .and when the phrase "Know Yourself" is an advertising slogan for underwear. does not learn in time where to stop. say. listening to the voice of conscience." rather than simply the individual or individual freedom. However. Today." because nobody can act in its name. it is limited to the powers of the individual minds which control or direct it. It is significant that only two thinkers in this century used the term "totalitarianism" with a positive meaning: Gramsci and the official fascist philosopher Gentile. If the presumption of the modern mind. Real emancipation presupposes that we will be able to find the courage to reject not only the totalitarian tendencies of capital and the modern state but also the subjectivity in whose name we are fighting against them.
. the profession of the creed. But how does this philosophical outlook relate to politics. In reality. which must always be "bigger than the minds of those governing it. we may. no state in which one person or one group of people are right and in possession of the truth and in which only one rational function remains for the others. To repeat the point: my liberalism has been above all an opposition to the opposition represented by the Left in the 1970s: the Left was seeking to take up this pastoral power and to wield it in order to emancipate people. in his own way. secondly. and the fact that it is shrunken to the "dimensions of the minds" of its most moral. a society governed by the best is also a dangerously shrunken society. Freedom is nothing more than a "society which is bigger than all its parts.
commercial respect for utility turned out to be a better guarantee of human freedom and dignity than the whole of Christian love and ethics
The Pope and his emissaries. adopted by the republic's government in 1658 and confirmed in 1752. argued in metaphysical terms that the Jews might infect Christians and that they were "outside the truth" and should therefore be isolated as "unclean. maritime republic. the circumstances surrounding the very tolerant laws regulating the residency of Jews in the city. not the people. tell me what guaranteed the freedom of the Jews of Genoa? Christian love for one's neighbour and humanist values? No! Commercial respect for utility turned out to be a better guarantee of human freedom and dignity than the whole of Christian love and ethics. because it tears us out of our provincial egoism and confronts us with the multi-faceted nature of the world. Today.in Arabic and in a merchant's script. where I often and actively took part in discussions. The free-thinking spirit of these laws was opposed by the Holy See. The Genoese were fighting for the rights of the Jews in name of the commercial virtues not "values" and love for one's neighbour. the merchant Ibrahim Ben Jacob saw Prague on a journey transporting his goods to Poland and recorded its name . Of course. that to forbid Jews to buy houses which they wished to purchase would go against free trade and that simple respect for their industriousness meant that they should be permitted to walk around the city freely even late at night. The whole system works only because the vast majority of people are unable to defend their real interests. objects and skills. They said. The oldest travelogues are merchants' diaries. the Vatican ambassador. In 966. by contrast. for example. The struggle for democratic freedom owes much to this gaze. The trade routes emanating from the Arab and Jewish Middle East have since time immemorial linked the world up into a gigantic bazaar for the exchange of information. It is good for the Czech political system that such a party exists and I hope it will soon overcome the crisis it is currently in. Values and the Good often serve as a justification for persecution and oppression. you also described yourself as a "pro-capitalist" philosopher. who were seafarers with a respect for difference in the world. this secularising and hence liberating spirit of capitalism is dead. The market has become an ideology. I believe you even contributed to the party's programme in 1992. Is this a description you would still use? Are you less "pro-capitalist" than five years ago? Bělohradský: My pro-capitalism forms a special chapter in my intellectual biography. I understood that in many respects Milton Friedman was right. As far ODS is concerned. What I value in Václav Klaus personally is the following strategic thesis of his: we are changing the system. I didn't contribute to the ODS programme in any specific way apart from working with the preparatory committee chaired by Josef Zieleniec. It is linked to my 20year experience as an emigrant in an old mercantile. my relationship with the party was never an organic one. an ODS deputy chairman who later became minister of foreign affairs in the 1992 ODS-led government. The tolerant Genoese merchants." this sounded extremely liberating and invigorating. the city of Genoa. that the requirement that they should wear yellow scarves as a warning sign would mark them out within the community and might give the impression they could be robbed with impunity. while the market and respect for commercial utility are liberating.. These mercantile arguments can be found in the letters the Genoese wrote to Father Centurione. resisted the concerted pressure of the Church only because to their mercantile way of reasoning it did not seem useful that the industrious Jews of Genoa be stripped of their freedom and dignity. a party of the Czech liberal bourgeoisie.. The merchant's gaze gives an important outside view of our life worlds." Now. The Genoese patriarchs attempted to protect the Jews using commercial arguments. I studied a very instructive episode in the state archive there. I criticise globalisation because I see within it a development in the direction that so horrified
. I welcomed the emergence of the ODS: at last the party Čapek and Peroutka had waited for in vain had been formed. CER: In 1994. In a country where intellectuals had gone into politics in order to change "people's thinking" and "transform their hearts. which steadfastly insisted on severe discrimination against Jews in the name of Christian values. CER: So this historical insight was an intellectually formative experience? CER: This episode played a very big role in my intellectual history.CER: At one time you were politically very close to the ODS. because they also worked at night.
. is a certain development of the national state. which we must implement in some way. The welfare state is surely dead but not the welfare society." of connection with the Earth. the Left should not abandon the issues that have historically defined it. the Left cannot talk of the end of the welfare state as superficially as Blair does. The welfare state. These are firstly. claims to have pioneered a "Third Way" between traditional Social Democracy and free market liberalism. after all. I think we were talking about the Left. Bělohradský: Secondly." Just think back to its unreserved support for the bombing of Iraq and Serbia or to the British role in the antiEuropean "Echelon Affair. of something we are unaware of? So your philosophical critique of today's "unipolar world" relates not only to the dangers of a "technotronic" world for democracy and "public space" but also to the threat posed to national identity and cultural diversity? Bělohradský: Philosophically.. albeit inadequately." which is destroying what is fundamental in human life. CER: But to return to politics. we should not forget. being in
I see Blairism as the greatest danger facing the European Left
a community with them and sharing a natural language. And." Even in the chaos of globalisation. What is your opinion of Tony Blair and "Third Way" politics? Bělohradský: I see Blairism as the greatest danger facing the European Left. But is what is most mobile also most fundamental to our lives? Jan Patočka spoke of three movements of human life and defined the first of these as the movement of rootedness in the lives of other people. Simply put.it can often take generations to change. because it hypocritically camouflages absolute conformism to globalisation and American neo-imperialism as a "new Third Way. as the globalisers maintain. Were we not talking at the start of this debate about the persistency of the Czech "anti-political discourse"? And is the persistency of this anti-political attitude not ultimately a subconscious defence of something fundamental to our national existence in this corner of Europe. the democratic Left today should be a robust defence of the non-mobile factors in human life. how can the primacy of politics over economics be realised in a unipolar world? Here the word "unipolar" does not only mean America's planetary "technotronic" (Brzezinski) neo-imperialism but the fact that globalisation only privileges and enhances the value of the "mobile factors" in human life. People are being pulled "unipolarly" in one direction towards enhancing the value of "mobile factors. our rootedness in natural language communities and specific historical landscapes. It is a historical framework within which the economy was subordinated to politics. that is. meaning is the
things that can be translated into English easily are not worth living for
. It is easy to translate information into English but not its historically constituted context. for example. The British Prime Minister Tony Blair. which is sedimented in natural language and not very mobile at all .Hayek: the whole of human society will soon be shrunk to the dimensions of the minds of the globalisers governing us. The national state is not just a leftover of the ideological blindness of the last century. Many sociologists and politicians in Central Europe have found Blair's ideas an attractive model.
CER: It's very often argued that in today's post-modern world traditional notions of left and right have become obsolete. a devaluation of "Earthliness. which can be rapidly transferred wherever it will bring profit. of capital. "unipolarity" means the radical and unilateral privileging of mobile factors in people's lives. It was within its cultural and political framework that institutions guaranteeing social justice and solidarity emerged.
destroyed the system. 12 May). Capitalism has still not yet dared to attempt its own "perestroika. and the Left should promote its moral delegitimation not support the "growth of efficiency" in society. I fear. especially in their mass culture. CER: You are very critical of the United States.." The attempt to reform socialism symbolised by Gorbachev was not just a "defeat in the Cold War" but had a very instructive logic of its own. Why is this? Many liberals see the USA in a very positive way. And great powers rise and fall. and by a paranoid political vision of the world as a place where villains conspire against democracy. General Wesley Clark said: "The Serbs can't do anything to us.. something which in the past the Catholic Church was not able to do. This is documented by the wave of self-glorifying films flooding the world. while America self-sacrificingly watches over a threatened world as the world's policeman. No. in a complex society governed by uncertainty it is dangerous to get rid of potential alternatives. Non-Americans make up an "insane society. Surely all great powers have from an overblown sense of their own importance.not guilty by an American court (Corriere della sera. For example. However. To give another example. as the verdict freeing Captain Ashby shows. your characterisation of the United States sounds a little exaggerated. declared after having been found . he wished to reform. which has been drowned out by the rhetoric of the victors. Is the "delirium" of the United States in today's world really so dangerous? Bělohradský: It is a dangerous delirium. I think every person living on the planet has a
.least mobile of all the factors that determine our lives. which the USA dragged Europe into. Blairism is not a source of hope. this self-aggrandising rhetoric of victory is especially offensive. although rather pessimistic. And how do we probably appear on them. It is dreadful to know that we exist only to the extent that we are marked on American maps. But the National Imagery Agency didn't take this into consideration and ignored it when creating its own map. The Italian government gave the National Imagery and Mapping Agency a copy of the maps containing the ill-fated cable car installation. America emerged from the spirit of a religious sect and General Clark is speaking as a sectarian. Bělohradský:My critical position towards the role of the USA in the unipolar world must be clearly defined. Seen against the background of the appalling social problems of the USA. in a speech in May to Italian pilots at the Gioia del Colle NATO base. we Europeans do not have a great deal of importance on them." Only taking your own maps into consideration is a delirium. as coloured dashes? Whatever the case. In Belgrade people are saying that fighting NATO is like fighting God" (La Stampa.what else? ." which has no right to judge them. 6 March 1999): "The truth has absolved me of blame. I am convinced that the Americans' new status as a single superpower has caused a certain delirium in them. CER: The notion that capitalism is waiting for a "Gorbachev" to lay bare its real problems is an arresting one. replacement options and dual certainties. Gorbachev. There was no cable car link marked on the maps of the National Imagery Agency. whose aircraft brought down a cable car with more than 20 people on board in the Italian town of Cermiz. the Left must be critical of "efficiency" as the key value of the global economy. I am critical of a rhetoric which describes the end of Communism as a "victory of the West in the Cold War. Captain Richard Ashby. but we can take light from them. Firstly. by the arrogant edging out of the UN. by the rhetoric of mystification used in the dirty war against Serbia. Thirdly. equipped with the illegal Echelon planetary eavesdropping system. Efficiency asserts itself by abolishing everything that is superfluous and redundant. I believe that the Catholic Church will soon attempt to revolt in some way against the cynicism of the globalisers and will successfully draw upon its own contradictory." It should link itself firmly to democracy. as someone with quite strong residual leftist anti-American sympathies. "Efficiency" is a dangerous goal in a complex society. How widespread is this delirium in the USA? How many people think that "fighting NATO is like fighting against God"? The absolute majority. Only they have the moral right to decide about what is good and bad for humanity. the poverty of the Third World and the ecological crisis. dangerous but authentic "Third Way. Rather. both for its role in the contemporary world generally and in relation to the Kosovo crisis in particular." Secondly. Things that can be translated into English easily are not worth living for. But even to me.
In the early 1980s." "Tender-minded" thinkers privilege the purity of abstract principles and guard their coherency." an attempt to solve everything through the application of the law. form or state of reality. Swift describes the lives of the unemployed in Cleveland. who defend the notion that "the absolute is always richer than the contradictions it contains" and compares their views with the living conditions of the people inhabiting the universe whose principles these professors are interpreting. CER: Reading your work and listening to your answers. In reality. a writer is trying to shake what Weinrich termed the Heiterkeit. one of the socalled "muckrackers. and so do I. globalised capitalism or the realisation of Christian virtues. ageism and smokers. or serenity. Violence is legitimate insofar as it is carried out by this vanguard which projects "historical truth" into the institutions of the socialist state. the Left in the form of pastoral power and a centrally financed welfare state is dead. He cites "the Professors of Philosophy. it was a factory producing medicines. while the life chances of a quarter of the population of New York are lower than in Third World." Royce and other idealists. you are saying that it is the Left's historically critical stance towards the status quo . with some final solution whether it be socialism. Shaking principles to their foundations is an old aspiration of art and philosophy. In depicting horror. this is European philosophy's most characteristic inheritance. In his introduction to pragmatism. I see the role of Europe today as the dogged defence of the difference between map and territory. the first of which he calls "tender-minded. he or she believes that there exists some final phase. the revolutionary believes in History in the same way that the Christian believes in the Christian God. The idea that consumerism and the market can act as a pyschologically oppressive structure. has arrived. William James compares two philosophical styles. The revolutionary left was only the historicisation of the old metaphysics. perhaps their original aspiration. have forgotten. when every three seconds someone on this Earth is dying of hunger. James sympathises with Swift's anarchist rage against pure principle. A stubborn memory for the difference between the map and the territory. But I think that Albert Camus's The Rebel is still a magnificently relevant book. the Left today can only mean a repeated daily attack on the serenity of defenders of values.it is dreadful to know that we exist only to the extent that we are marked on American maps
moral duty to contribute in some way to help Americans recover from this delirium. American generals bombed a pharmaceutical plant somewhere in Sudan in retaliation for a terrorist attack on the embassy in Nairobi." the second "tough-minded. but on their maps it was circled as a threat to American interests (!). unpredictable revolts against the cynicism of the globalisers. I share Richard Rorty's admiration for American pragmatism in the original democratic version given to it by James and Dewey. The revolutionary is a metaphysician. that the map is only an image of the territory not a substitute for it. He quotes the pamphlet "Human Submission" by the American anarchist Morrison I Swift. of those who speak in the name of rights and principles. The American Left. I published an essay entitled "A Critique of the Eschatology of Impersonality. for me. who have been driven out of their wretched homes and counts the number suicides committed out of desperation. sexism. an era of local. Bělohradský: As I said.or at least the critical and "tough-minded" attitude of some on the Left towards the status quo . principles and morality. I think that Western cant about human rights quite shameless. which has proved quite unable to promote social justice to even the slightest extent. whilst "tough-minded" thinkers privilege the brutal factual reality that mires these principles into the outrageous mud of experience and thus calls them into question. CER: So. revolts without any scientific justification. today makes its living by struggling against discrimination against gays.that attracts you? Bělohradský: For me. which the Americans. In reply to the protests of the UN they answered: no one has the right to judge us!
Another example of a map replacing rather than describing territory is modern American "pan-legalism.
. for example. Seattle convinced me that the old metaphysical Left can now no longer return. seems strongly to echo the "New Left" of the 1960s. I can't help feeling that there is a certain "left-wing" element in your thinking. In 1998. which the vanguard of humanity will discover in history as the true content and basis of human identity and mediate to the whole of humanity." which was based on the following idea: hope must not be linked with any final form of the world. in their post-Communist delirium." the journalists and thinkers who realistically described the violence and corruption of American capitalism at the turn of the century.
trembling. It has been harnessed to the reproduction processes of the status quo. culture serves as a memory. Today. its liberating vulgarity. who resembled robots or Martians: this is what you look like in the interests of the globalisers.like the dog's head in the noose. pocket editions of Plato lie on the kitchen table beside the toaster.? For example. only on the side of mortal. CER: For example. Does that not fatefully weaken the democratic public space? CER: Have any other the 'critical theorists' influenced you? Among the "critical theory" authors. the managers of the battery farms will perhaps not emerge victorious after all.
the Left today can only mean a farmers from Europe. has been reduced to mere obscenity. because after
Will the Martian robocops of Seattle rise up and revolt against their own image?
Auschwitz we can no longer be on the side of any eternal truths or positive principles. I set greatest store by Adorno and his Negative Dialectics. people defending their own bodies against genetic repeated daily manipulation. Education has been democratised but at the price of being integrated into the workings of everyday life. injured human bodies and the experience that resides in them. before our very eyes! values. the Green Cross. they too have their own unforgettable archetypes of revolt . I understand the work as a philosophy of revolt in the sense I formulated it a moment ago.From the demonstrations in Seattle we can catch the scent of a new polylogy. moreover? Somewhere I read that Chaplin's "anti-battery farm" film Modern Times was declared the greatest film of the century.. Or the Martian robocops of Seattle. the Sierra Club. Negative. Interview conducted by Seán
Hanley. which transcended the universe of the powerful. Marcuse is asking a fateful question here: what has happened to "negativity of thinking" in mass industrial society. principles and morality
What made the greatest impression upon me was the sight of a girl who simply held up her pocket mirror to the policemen clad in anti-riot gear. They all agreed only on one thing: that revolt could no longer be defenders of postponed. Marcuse used this expression to describe the transformation of consciousness caused by the fact that in mass society the energy of utopian thinking critical of the status quo is pulled into the workings of everyday life. motivated by their own life serenity of histories. Public Citizen. but. high art has been deprived of its utopian distance from the everyday. In his "Meditation on Metaphysics" Adorno wrote that it is essential for a philosopher never to forget how they felt as a child on seeing a dog that has just been caught being dragged off to a grilled van in a noose to be taken to the knacker's yard. warning us and offering us persuasive reasons for revolt. you are victims too! There is an element of unconscious European cultural memory in this. Not a revolt against Evil in the world but against the evil somebody here and now is doing to somebody else here and now.. into the functioning of that status quo. and thus tamed and abolished in its liberating negativity. So. Human Society. the legend of the Medusa who could not survive the sight of her own image reflected in Perseus's shield. thousands of spontaneous organisations . Bělohradský: I take Marcuse's theory of the "one-dimensional man" very seriously. CER: Some of comments you have made in the past about the "totalitarian" character of the consumer society or the global market remind me of Herbert Marcuse. Today's children probably no longer know what a knacker's yard is. I believe. Will they rise up and revolt at some point against their own image as seen in a girl's pocket mirror? Is the difference between a large battery farm and a large city that great. In the past. to that distance from the process of mere reproduction that was the exalted core of the great works of art of the past? Popular art has been emasculated.each with their own local attack on the reasons for their revolt against the globalisers' cynicism. meditating on Plato at a distance from everyday life was the preserve of elites isolated in monasteries. 20 May 2000
. the battery farm where each cage is crammed with hens whose beaks have been cut off to prevent them attacking one another.
" in Cahiers du Cefres. Kapitalismus a občanské ctnosti. "Contre l'Etat Europe. Ceskoslovenský spisovatel. Oloumouc. A kapitalizmus és polgári erény. "La modernité comme passion du neutre. 1998. Milan. Ceskoslovenský spisovatel. 1988. Kalligram. 1991. La vida come problema politico.
. "Il conflitto presidente-sistema dei partiti nel consolidamento della democrazia ceca. Moving on: • • • Return to CER front page Archive of Seán Hanley's articles in CER Articles on the Czech Republic in CER
Václav Bělohradský's publications include: • • • • • • • • • • Il mondo della vita: un problema politico. Jaca Book. Encuentro Ediciones. 1999. Prague. 1992." inMessager europeen. 1988. "La precession de la legalité ou l'Empire d'Autriche comme metaphore. 1981. Bratislava. West London. Přirozený svět jako politický problém. 1987. Madrid. Votobia.Seán Hanley is Lecturer in Politics at the Department of Government at Brunel University. Prague. Prague." in Studi politici 3." in Messager europeen. 1996. Mezi světy a mezisvěty. 1994.