Pro Democracy rallies around Poland, BYDGOSZCZ, 19 December 2015 © Jaap Arriens | Flickr
EssaysFeatureLiberal Democracy in Question

Thoughts on the Hungarian and Polish New Right in Power

Eviscerating the Constitutional Court and purging the judiciary, complete politicization of the civil service, turning public media into a government mouthpiece, restricting opposition prerogatives in parliament, unilateral wholesale change of the Constitution or plain violation of it, official tolerance and even promotion of racism and bigotry, administrative assertion of traditional gender norms, cultural resurrection of authoritarian traditions, placing loyalty over competence in awarding state posts, surveillance without check — with such policies and more, right-wing governments in Hungary and Poland …

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Berlin Wall, June 1989 © Angr | Wikimedia Commons
EssaysFeature

The Communist Roots of Anti-Refugee Sentiment

Those seeking to explain why the response to foreigners on the part of Eastern Europeans — in Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and eastern Germany — has been so severe and contemptuous have to take a look back.

It must have been shortly before we left for Germany, in 1980 or 1981. My father had taken me — I was five or six at the time — for a walk at the edge of our apartment complex in Toruń, Poland. Along the way he pointed at a deserted construction site. It was supposed to be an indoor swimming pool, but the materials and willpower needed to complete the project were obviously lacking. The pool basin had been finished many years earlier; …

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Hungary vs. Refugees © Michael Gubi | Flickr
EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Orbán’s Politics of Fear and Hatred in Hungary

On a European nation's far-right response to the refugee crisis

Although the position on the migrant issue put forward by the prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, is morally hard to digest, many people think it is nevertheless the only way to save Europe from the flood of masses that threatens to destabilize the continent. I dispute this opinion. In addition to the moral issues it presents, Orbán’s plan for Europe is doomed to end in disaster. …

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Ágnes Heller, October 27, 2014 © Fundació Catalunya-La Pedrera | Flickr
EducationEssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionPower and CrisisTheory & Practice

Agnes Heller and “Everyday Revolutions”

Portrait of a Philosopher

The forms of the southern clouds at the dawn of April 30th, 1882, are comparable to those mottled streaks on this one book he had only seen once (a Spanish edition). Following the Naturalis Historia, he recounts exactly four historically exemplary cases of prodigious memory: Cyrus …

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Polish Round Table Talks in Warsaw, Poland, on February 6, 1989. © Erazm Ciołek | Polska: sierpień 1980–sierpień 1989
EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Reflections on a Revolutionary Imaginary and Round Tables

The new always appears in the guise of a miracle

This is the prepared text answering the question “What do we really know about transitions to democracy?” for  the General Seminar of The New School for Social Research, March 19, 2014.

It was a quarter of a century ago, in 1989, that a new kind of revolutionary imaginary emerged, one that promises a new beginning, and demonstrates the possibility of comprehensive systemic change without bloodshed. Velvet or otherwise un-radical, this kind of revolution has become a site of tangible hope, a site in which words have power, where people regain their dignity, and realize their agency through instruments other than weapons. Negotiated revolutionis not an oxymoron, but it is still an extraordinary event, as dictatorships are by definition opposed to any spirit of dialogue and compromise. …

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