Răscrucile insângerate…


Dacă cineva mi-ar cere să numesc un intelectual critic român, un om care s-a aventurat in spaţiul ideilor, dar şi al politicului, in polemici de o mistuitoare şi periculoasă intensitate, şi care a apărat public valorile democratice, plătind cu viaţa pentru angajamentul său, l-aş numi pe Ioan Petru Culianu. Binecuvântată să-i fie amintirea!


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Memento: Adam Michnik and Mircea Mihaies…


25 years ago, April 1992, at the “Partisan Review” conference on “Intellectuals and Social Change in East-Central Europe” (Rutgers University, Newark campus) Among the participants: Doris Lessing, Joseph Brodsky, Czesław Milosz, Ivan Klima, Adam Zagajewski, Saul Bellow, George Konrad, Susan Sontag, Tatyana Tolstaya, Ralph Ellison, Richard Pipes, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Adriana Babeti, Vasily Aksyonov and the list goes on. I took the picture posted below and it remains one of those I cherish the most…


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Opium for the Intellectuals…


The author of “Das Kapital” was born almost two centuries ago, on May 5, 1818. He died on March 14, 1883. As a political religion, Marxism became the “opium of the intellectuals” (Raymond Aron). For Marx, the revolution is an apocalyptical act of liberation, a return to a long-forgotten state of unity of the human species. Marxism is an eschatology (a doctrine about the death and its aftermath, a vision of post-apocalyptical resurrection): a doctrine of ultimate rediscovery of human identity and liberty. It is also a millenarianism (it announces t the advent of the classless millenium), a chiliasm—a belief in the coming utopian age, the advent of Messianic time (Walter Benjamin),created through revolution.

Historical materialism is a phihilosophy of action: Marx refused mere philosphical speculation and contemplation. He considered ideas as means to change the world. The 11th Thesis on Feuerbach gave full voice to this belief: „Philosphers have only interpreted the world. The issue is to change it”. In this respect, Leninism (Bolshevism) was the loyal heir to Marx’s orginal doctrine. It fulfilled the three main postulates in the original doctrine: the postulate of revolution; the postulate of universalism; and the postulate of an anthropological mutation.

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Between past and future: On Karl Mannheim


Hungarian-Jewish born sociologist Karl Mannheim (March 27, 1893, Budapest, Hungary–January 9, 1947, London, United Kingdom) was one of the founders of the discipline known as the sociology of knowledge. His “Ideology and Utopia” has endured as a classic of social science. Mannheim’s contributions to the understanding of generations as social, political, intellectual phenomena are utterly timely. The transmission of cultural constructs, memories, and significant reference points (what Mannheim called “the accumulated cultural heritage”) is the guarantee that humanity can overcome oblivion and amnesia. Each generation has its differentia specifica, yet none is totally devoid of visible or invisible links to the previous ones.

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Apostolic genealogies: From Marx, through Lenin, to Stalin


Definitely, the 19th century political philosopher and economist Karl Marx was not Stalin’s direct intellectual forebear. The relation was mediated (vermittelt) by Plekhanov, Lenin, the Georgian Social Democrats, to some extent even Austrian Marxism. Yet, as Leszek Kołakowski, Martin Malia, and Andrzej Walicki have shown, Stalinism was one of the main currents of Marxism in a century of fierce ideological storms. Stalin conceived of himself as a Marxist and acted accordingly. It was not sheer lust for blood, compulsive vindictiveness, and a Gargantuan appetite for power that motivated his genocidal undertakings, but, more than anything else, his unshatterable belief that he was Lenin’s true disciple. In turn, Lenin was convinced that he was Marx’s only apostolic successor…


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Antonio Gramsci’s Dialectical Machiavellianism


Tomorrow I will present in my undergrad class some thoughts on the occasion of the eightieth commemoration of Antonio Gramsci’s death on April 27, 1937, at the age of 46, in Mussolini’s Italy. In his trilogy on the main currents of Marxism, Leszek Kołakowski is relatively soft on the Italian revolutionary thinker and definitely less caustic than in his chapters on Georg Lukács and Herbert Marcuse. Yet, one needs to emphasize that Gramsci never questioned the totalitarian structure of the Leninist-type party (the modern Prince). He yearned for the annihilation of the old bourgeois order and had little patience for political pluralism. For Gramsci, Good and Evil hinge upon pragmatic decisions. They are not autonomous values. The agonizing split within humanity cannot continue, affirmed Gramsci, and he hoped that a Messianic revolution would lead to an ultimate harmony. This perfect community was, of course, a utopian dream, but one worth, in Gramsci’s view, any sacrifice, individual and collective…


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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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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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