Mystical socialism versus skeptical sarcasm


Today in my class on Marxism, neo-Marxism, post-Marxism we discussed the intellectual origins of the Budapest School and the avatars of humanist dialectics. I mentioned this telltale story: When Georg Lukács said that even the worst socialism was preferable to the best capitalism, Leszek Kołakowski replied: “Ah yes, the advantages of Albania over Sweden are self-evident.”

Images: Georg Lukács (1885-1971) and Leszek Kołakowski (1927-2009)


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Dialectics of disenchantment…


Today I will lecture on the Budapest School of critical Marxism. I will speak about Ágnes Heller (in the image), Ferenc Fehér (1933-1994)–“Marxism as Politics: An Obituary,” a seminal article published in the journal “Problems of Communism” in its special fiftieth anniversary issue–, György Márkus (1934-2016) as well as György Bence (1941-2006) and János Kis, the so-called “Lukacs kindergarten,” who wrote, under the pseudonym Mark Rakovski a very important book published in the West in 1978. In this time of epistemic revisionism, even anarchism, it’s necessary to clarify the genealogy, the metamorphoses and the fate of emancipatory ideas in a century of ideological storms. It will be a lecture on illusions and disillusionment. 


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Habent sua fata libelli: Paul Ricoeur and Emmanuel Macron


Paul Ricoeur, “Memory, History, Forgetting,” Translated by Kathleen Blamey and David Pellauer, The University of Chiacgo Press, 2004, “Preface,” p. XVII): “… and finally, Emmanuel Macron to whom I am indebted for a pertinent critique of the writing and the elaboration of the critical apparatus of the work.” Elaboration of the critical apparatus! This is quite an acknowledgement! Paul Ricoeur was one of the most penetrating, most profound thinkers of our times. Such a recognition for Macron is for me a ,ajor, idelible recommendation for a critical intellectual. In the times of moral idiots and cultural barbarians like Trump, Putin, and Orban, I don’t need to justufy my support for Macron…


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How democracies perish…


How democracies perish: Never was the title of Jean-François Revel’s 1983 book more appropriate than in these dark times for liberal values. Far from living the end of history, nonchalantly predicted by a a bright Straussian political thinker in 1989, we witness the vindictive comeback of reactionary (I measure my terms) forces and ideas belonging to the age of tyranny (the title of Elie Halévy’s famous lecture in the 1930s). This is is Havel post-communist nightmare coming true. And all this debacle is happening under Western eyes…


Comment les démocraties finissent par Revel

History, Memory, Forgetting: Emmanuel Macron and Paul Ricoeur


He was Paul Ricoeur’s editorial assistant: This is where Emmanuel Macron comes from. He’s a member of the editorial board of the influential monthly “Esprit”, friends with Olivier Mongin, the author of an important book on the invention of the democratic intellectual. Some try to diminish the link to Ricouer. Yet, Macron insists on this intellelectual debt and profound affinity.

“J’ai beaucoup appris auprès de lui. A lire la philosophie. Parce que c’est un hasard de la vie, presque un malentendu. C’est François Dosse, qui a été son biographe, qui était historien, qui a été un de mes professeurs, qui m’a conduit jusqu’à lui parce que Ricoeur cherchait quelqu’un pour faire ses archives. Donc c’était vraiment une tâche très manuelle, très ancillaire. Et nous nous sommes rencontrés, et nous ne nous sommes plus quittés.”

In 2004, Paul Ricoeur (1913-2005) received the Kluge Prize from the Library of Congress. It is one of the most prestigious intellectual awards in the world. It is meant to include areas in the humanities not covered by the Nobel Prizes (philosophy, theology, history, etc) On that occasion, the distinguished Russia scholar and then Librarian of Congres, James Billington, wrote: “Paul Ricoeur is a philosopher who draws on the entire tradition of western philosophy to explore and explain common problems: What is a self? How is memory used and abused? What is the nature of responsibility? He is a constant questioner – always pressing to understand the nature and limits of what constitutes our humanity.”

In 1945 Ricoeur began his teaching career at the international Protestant College Cevenol (where he met American Quakers, who invited him to Haverford College 10 years later) and moved in 1948 to the University of Strasbourg. In 1956 he was appointed to the chair of general philosophy at the Sorbonne. For the next decade Ricoeur wrote continuously as a professional philosopher. He was also an activist, both against the French war in Algeria and as a reformer of the French university system. In 1967 he left the Sorbonne to assume the deanship of the new experimental university at Nanterre. Student and community disruption and unrest forced him to resign in 1969. He then taught for two years at Louvain in Belgium before moving to the United States, first to Yale and then to the University of Chicago. There he succeeded Paul Tillich as the John Nuveen Chair in the Divinity School and was jointly appointed to the Department of Philosophy and the Committee on Social Thought.…/aux-sources-des-idees-demman…

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The birth certificate of political modernity…


Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

Approved by the National Assembly of France, August 26, 1789

The representatives of the French people, organized as a National Assembly, believing that the ignorance, neglect, or contempt of the rights of man are the sole cause of public calamities and of the corruption of governments, have determined to set forth in a solemn declaration the natural, unalienable, and sacred rights of man, in order that this declaration, being constantly before all the members of the Social body, shall remind them continually of their rights and duties; in order that the acts of the legislative power, as well as those of the executive power, may be compared at any moment with the objects and purposes of all political institutions and may thus be more respected, and, lastly, in order that the grievances of the citizens, based hereafter upon simple and incontestable principles, shall tend to the maintenance of the constitution and redound to the happiness of all. Therefore the National Assembly recognizes and proclaims, in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being, the following rights of man and of the citizen:


1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good. …


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Diavolul in Istorie: Lenin, Hitler si totalitarismul


Vladimir Ilici Ulianov, devenit Lenin, s-a născut la Simbirsk, in Imperiul Rus, pe 22 aprilie 1870. Adolf Schicklgruber, devenit Hitler, s-a născut la Braunau am Inn, in Imperiul Austro-Ungar, pe 20 aprilie 1889. Fără ei, milioane de oameni nu ar fi fost masacraţi. Tăcerea şi consimţământul, conformismul cel mai obedient şi răbdător, sunt însemnele inconfundabile ale zodiei totalitare. Timp în care diverşi inspectori ai sufletelor, servitorii dictaturilor concentraţionare, se pregătesc să mai adauge vreun cadavru etic pe lunga listă a oribilelor lor cuceriri. Dincolo de atâtea triste abdicări, rămâne însă certitudinea raţiunii ca substrat al speranţei, convingerea că solidaritatea, individuală şi socială, poate învinge noaptea totalitară.

Poate ca nimeni nu a afirmat mai limpede acest lucru decit Hannah Arendt in finalul “Originilor totalitarismului”: „But there remains also the truth that every end in history necessarily contains a new beginning; this beginning is the promise, the only ‚message’ which the end can ever produce. Beginning because it becomes a historical event, is the supreme capacity of man; politically, it is identical with man’s freedom. Initium ut esset homo creatus est—‚that a beginning be made man was created’ said Augustine. This beginning is guaranteed by each new birth; it is indeed every man.” (Ramine totusi adevarul ca fiecare sfirsit in istorie contine in chip necesar un nou inceput; acest inceput este promisiunea, unicul ‚mesaj’ pe care il poate vreodata genera sfirsitul. Inceputul intrucit devine un eveniment istoric, este suprema capacitate a omului; se identifica cu libertatea umana. Initium ut esset homo creatus est­­–,pentru ca inceputul sa se produca a fost creat omul’ a spus-o Augustin. Acest inceput este garantat de fiecare noua nastere; el este de fapt fiecare om”.)


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