A Decade of Transformation

A Decade of Transformation

Junior Visiting Fellows’ Conferences, Vol. VIII
IWM, Vienna 1999 [Published on the Web]

Edited by: Roseanne Gerin and Petra Jedlicková

Contributions by: Matthew Simpson, Iulia Voina-Motoc, Dan Dungaciu, Aneta Gawkowska, Piotr Korys, Szymon Wrobel, Daniel Vojtech, Paulina Bren, Petra Jedlicková, Karin Wetschanow and Melita Zajc

Introduction: A Decade of Transformation

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the profound political, economic and social changes that have taken place in the former communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe. As with all anniversaries, 1999 is a year to look back and assess the progress that has been made and to reflect upon the developments that have yet to take place as the transformation continues. As scholars attempt to make sense of the rapidly changing societies in the emerging democracies of Central and Eastern Europe as well as in the mature democracies of both Western Europe and the United States, the few remaining divisions between East and West – the last faded and dilapidated remnants of the Iron Curtain – are gradually disintegrating and being replaced by the striking, multicolored banner of a globalized society...
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Political Liberty in the Social Contract

This paper concerns a narrowly defined topic in the history of philosophy. Since its intended audience is composed primarily of scholars who are neither historians nor philosophers, it is appropriate that I first indicate why it might be interesting to a more general public. I can begin by noting that a number of other papers in this series are addressed to the problems of modern political liberalism. That this should be the case is not surprising given that the basic terms of liberalism have become more or less the exclusive vocabulary not only of political scholarship, but of politics itself...
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Moral-Rule and Rule of Law in International Politics: Common Sense, Political Realism, Skepticism

Can a state be moral? The question does violence to common opinion-arousing reactions which might be attached to irony. Wouldn't it prove better for the speech on ethics in international relations to be included in a history of utopia? The notion of morals in an oversimplified acceptance as it is implied in this sentence is that of the religions of salvation or of Kantian autonomy applied to states after World War I...
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East and West and the “Mirror of Nature”: Nationalism in West and East Europe – Essentially Different?

This paper is just an introduction, a starting point, and what I intend to do here is more modest and circumscribed. The purpose of this paper is to offer a few methodological preliminaries to speak about some problems that appear - that have actually appeared - when nationalisms of these areas are compared. The supposition of this article is that no few theories, perspectives or concepts - implicitly or explicitly - essentialize the nationalisms of these two areas. Without a critical analysis, without a previous deconstruction of those essentialist theories and concepts, any comparison between the East and the West is a risk to perpetuate them. To outline the relevance of so-called "Eastern nationalism" and "Western nationalism," of the relationship between them - as far as these concepts or relations induce, produce or perpetuate essentialism - is the aim of my article.
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Neutrality, Autonomy and Order: Amitai Etzioni’s Communitarian Critique of Liberalism Under Scrutiny

A prominent liberal once wrote: "The hard truth is this: There is no moral meaning hidden in the bowels of the universe." I take these words as expressing the most essential core and creed of the liberal faith. Why faith? Because it requires an initial premise like the one just stated, which is not supported with unquestionable evidence but, instead, remains a proposition open for debate. It seems to me that precisely this initial premise gives the best account for subsequent liberal postulates such as pluralism of values, the autonomy of the individual and the neutrality of the state...
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Conservatism as an Answer to Liberalism in Politics: The Case of Contemporary Poland

The main subject of these considerations is conservatism as an economic ideology. The author takes it for granted that the economic views of conservatives are coherent with the core of ideology, and, in this way, grounded in political philosophy. It also is obvious that the ideology is an easier, more trivial and sometimes degenerated version of political philosophy since it must be useful in political practice. In the beginning I shall formulate a thesis about the coexistence of ideologies and the real world, then I shall concentrate on the definition of ideology, and in particular, on the definition of conservatism that is created for empirical analysis...
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Power, Subject and the Concept of Rational Action

... But what does it mean exactly to say that persons behave "rationally" in a certain situation or that their expressions can count as "rational?" The question is important because we often tend to reach for a characterization of the concept of rational ity merely in formal terms. Can rationality be seen only as logical consistency? And in this sense can someone who acts in violation of her own interests be considered irrational? In this way of questioning, I would like to touch not only on the foundational issues of how the social sciences should proceed, but also on the much more troublesome issue of how we, as men and women, should properly understand ourselves...
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Jan Patocka: On Art and Philosophy

The editor who attempts to select a group of texts that should create a meaningful whole, is confronted with the situation determined by the integral character of the work. Here, one cannot speak of a philosophy of art independent of the rest of Patocka’s work (not to mention the many fragments of manuscripts or unpublished essays). If one were to remove from their context those studies which treat the subject of art or particular art works in one way or another, the final selection would be so reductive as to raise the question of why Patocka placed so much emphasis in these essays on the position and character of art. The collection would have at best an incidental value. It is therefore obvious that should the editor want to fulfil his task at least in part, he must justify his standpoint and clarify the criteria according to which he has assembled the volume with respect to Patocka’s work as a whole...
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Envisioning a “Socialist Way of Life”: Ideology and Contradiction in Czechoslovakia, 1969-1989

The history of communism in Czechoslovakia, and particularly the story of the 1970s and 1980s, has often been narrated as a succession of oppositions, dichotomies or - to borrow from the discourse of the period - of dialectics. At the root of this history is the long-held conviction that the postwar communist world of Eastern Europe was made up of two polar opposites: the official and the unofficial. Scholarly studies have frequently focused on "official" culture versus "unofficial" culture, on the "first" (state-planned) economy versus the "second" (black-market) economy, on the Party elite versus the dissident elite....
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From Monasteries to the Informational City, From Manuscripts to the New Media

We inhabit a world that is informational. Our lives are mosaics of information. Most jobs today deal with producing, transmitting, receiving, designing or archiving information. We become producers, transmitters, consumers and also buyers and sellers of information. Entertainment, body image, lifestyle, tourism, R&D or public affairs are products of the hyper-media information environment we create and inhabit. We live in the multimedia world where we endlessly and automatically interact with the media messages received from multi-channels. In urban societies media consumption is the second largest category of activity after work...
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“The Personal Is Political”: Are Daytime Talk Shows Feminist?

Daytime television talk shows are often said to be "pro-women-orientated" or "feminist" because of their strong orientation towards women. With respect to this "from-women-for-women" argument, I will argue that the genre in question is not to be conceived as feminist. I then will turn to the claim that daytime talk shows are political because of their alleged democratic structure. They "give voice" to formerly "speechless" groups and challenge the dominant position of experts in the media by talking about personal experiences of "ordinary people" (lays) publicly. Since "the personal is political" has been the motto of the second women's movement, the question arises whether daytime talk shows are feminist with regard to the fulfillment of this claim. To answer this question properly, a discussion of the notions of "political," "private" and "public" will be necessary...
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The Concept of Dispositiv: Studying Technology in Terms of its Use Because of the All Yet-To-Be-Written User Manuals

Media and technologies are becoming more and more an inseparable part of contemporary societies and our everyday lives. Concerns regarding the consequences of this invasion are widespread. In general two notions prevail. One ascribes to technology the powers to create the unprecedented forms of sociability and individuality. The other considers technology as an effect of social demands. Within the theory, the understanding of technology oscillates between both alternatives: between the conception of technology as the cause of social change that is usually known as technological determinism and the conception of technology as being totally dependent on social demands...
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