Kristina Andelova

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PhD candidate in History, Charles University Prague

Jan Patočka Junior Visiting Fellow
(September 2015 – February 2016)

Project:

The Intellectual History of Czech Democratic Left (1968 – 1998)

My project analyzes the intellectual development of the Czech Left after 1968 up to present day. The central concerns of my work are to trace what happened to the project of democratic socialism during the twenty-two years of the so-called “normalization”of the 1970s and 1980s,and how the Czech Left and its expectations shifted in the context of the intellectual and political changes that occurred across Europe during the same period.

 

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Reinventing Central Europe and the Decline of Marxism:
Czech “Orientalism” through the Lens of Intellectual History

In my paper I focus on the profound intellectual change that occurred during 1970s and 1980s when the belief that communism can be reformed gradually disappeared among the majority of intellectuals both in the East and in the West with the growing condemnation of Marxism as the ideology that gave birth to communist totalitarianism. Following Tony Judt analysis I argue that the decline of Marxism as a political theory since the 1970s and the increasing attention towards Central Europe are two interrelated processes, both among Eastern and Western leftist intellectual. Once they stopped identifying themselves with Marxist political theory and gave up Marxist political language, geopolitical arrangements were likewise reconsidered. Such geopolitical exceptionalism ultimately produced the new imagination of boundaries between former “socialist brothers” (those belonging to Central Europe and those outside). Thus, new ways of hierarchy appeared, sometimes bringing back a new (occasionally chauvinist) form of nationalism, which seemed to have, at the time, a special liberating potential against unifying Soviet claims. Such disillusionment led to a gradual de-legitimization of Marxism and communism and its externalization beyond Europe. This process ended, beside to other things, with a production of a hostile discourse towards Russia and Eastern Europe – a discourse which helped to shape a new Central European exclusivism: in comparison with the rest of the Eastern block, Central Europe was seen as an exceptional region with distinctive and more “Western” cultural qualities.
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