Heroes: Václav Havel and Adam Michnik

05/10/2016

One would have turned eighty on October 5. The other will turn seventy on October 17. One wrote “The Power of the Powerless,” the other one “The New Evolutionism.” These two essays defined the goals of East European dissident movements, their vision of liberty, and their ethos. They both deserve our gratitude. Their names: Václav Havel and Adam Michnik.

 

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In Memoriam Leonidas Donskis (1962-2016)

21/09/2016

My close friend of soul, ideas, and values, Lithuanian political philosopher Leonidas Donskis passed away in a sudden, absurd, totally unexpected way. But is there any death expected? “Death transforms life in destiny,” wrote Malraux. In this case a noble, generous, altruistic destiny. We have been friends for many years. I can’t write details now, I am speechless. Below, a concise summary of a rich and inspiring life. A few months ago, Leonidas and I signed the contract with Brill Publishers in Netherlands for a book of dialogues in English to come out in their series “Value Inquiry.” The title is: “Demons: Metapolitics, Nihilism, and Radicalism in a Century of Ideological Passions.” We completed the first chapter. My plan was to work these days for the next one. Destiny decided otherwise. I extend my warmest feelings of compassion to his wife, Jolanta Donskienė. He will be immensely, irreplaceaby missed by all the friends of liberty.

 

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Leonidas Donskis, Ph.D., (August 13, 1962 – September 21, 2016) was Member of the European Parliament (MEP, 2009-2014), a philosopher, political theorist, historian of ideas, social analyst, and political commentator, Professor of Politics and Head of “VDU Academia Cum Laude” at Vytautas Magnus University and Honorary Consul of Finland in Kaunas.

As a public figure in Lithuania, he acted as a defender of human rights and civil liberties. In 2004, Donskis has been awarded by the European Commission the title of the Ambassador for Tolerance and Diversity in Lithuania. He has always been opposed to all extreme or exclusionary attitudes and forms of violent politics, and, instead, has been leaning to liberalism with its advocacy of individual reason and conscience, ability to coexist with democratic programs of other non-exclusive ideologies, and moderation.

He died on September 21, 2016, of an apparent heart attack.


Demonii…

31/08/2016

Posedații bolșevici au fost urmașii lui Serghei Neceaiev și ai colegilor acestuia. Neceaiev a fost prototipul care l-a inspirat pe Dostoievski pentru construcția personajului de o infinită amoralitate Piotr Verhovenski din romanul „Demonii”. Asemeni posedaților dostoievskieni, bolșevicii erau fanatici convinși că fericesc umanitatea, indiferent de metodele utilizate. În plus, ei erau înarmați cu o doctrină ce se pretindea infailibilă. Tocmai această aroganță epistemică l-a ferit pe Lenin de îndoieli și l-a făcut imun la orice considerente „sentimental-burgheze”.

http://www.europalibera.org/a/27957732.html


Prayer on Bastille Day

14/07/2016

God, please protect us from revolutionary saints! “Those who make revolutions by halves do nothing but dig their own tombs.” (January 1793) [Source: Oeuvres Complètes de Saint-Just, vol. 1 (2 vols., Paris, 1908), p. 414]

 


Tirania majoritatii, atunci si acum…

23/06/2016

Contemporary East-Central Europe, in particular Romania’s Parliament: “The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.” Lord Acton— The History of Freedom in Antiquity, 1877

 


Totalitarismul sub lupa: Hannah Arendt si Sigmund Neumann

21/06/2016

On his FB page, political scientist Marius Stan publishes a picture with two major students of totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt and Sigmund Neumann, accompanied by an excellent commentary: “Neumann’s groundbreaking book “Permanent Revolution: The Total State in a World War” (1942) deals with the structural framework which distinguishes modern dictatorship from the 19th century state. He was among the first scholars to discuss the role and the figure of the political lieutenant (or, in his own words, “the forgotten man”). SN was fully committed to the comparative study of politics (His credo: “To know thyself, compare thyself to others.”)  Nowadays, the city of Dresden, this powerful symbol of destruction and war, has the privilege to host two important institutions: Hannah Arendt Institute for the Research on Totalitarianism & Sigmund Neumann Institute for the Research on Freedom and Democracy. Neumann tackled the concept of “totalitarianism” quite early (“always on a march that never ends, incessantly at war with a world that it can not possess,” therefore its character of “permanent revolution”), Arendt added a much needed philosophical touch and turned it into a key-concept for the modern political science…”

Hannah Arendt and Sigmund Neumann, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT.


O veste minunata pentru prietenii societatii deschise

05/05/2016

Great news for the friends of the open society! Congrats to Michael Ignatieff, influential human rights scholar and admirable public intellectual: “Farewell to @Harvard @Kennedy_School. From September 1, I will be President & Rector of Central European University in Budapest @CEUHungary.” One of my first book reviews in English came out in the 1980s in the journal “Orbis” and praised Michael Ignatieff’s wonderful “Russian Album.” In the 1990s, I used in my classes his film and book “Blood and Belonging,” one of the finest analyses of the Yugoslav debacle.

 

 

I read with an immense interest his biography of Isaiah Berlin,. In the pages of the NYRB, Michael has published seminal essays, including the insightfully prescient ones, last year, on the new authoritarian wave. I met him in Amsterdam a few years ago when we were on the same panel on nationalism as at a conference organized by Rob Riemen, the indefatigable director of the Nexus Institute. We talked about civil society’s metamorphoses in post-communist Europe (he had published an utterly thoughtful review of Ernest Gellner’s “Conditions of Liberty”). For those who have not visted CEU, let ma say that there is, in addition to a “Popper Room,” a “Gellner Room,” as well.

As one who has published several volumes with CEU Press, who has frequently lectured there, participated in doctoral committees, and co-organized a major conference in 1999 to explore the revolutions of 1989 and their aftermath, I am particularly pleased and happy for Michael Ignatieff and for entire CEU community, professors, library staff, students and alumni!