The peaceful revolutions of 1989 in Central and Eastern Europe have been perceived, for good reason, as revolutions of human rights, which strengthened the legitimacy of Western-type liberal democracy and global neoliberal capitalism. Eastern European dissidents were often seen, if not mythologized, as central to this triumph of liberalism. Michal Kopeček’s research challenges these assumptions. He argues that the liberal discourse of human rights was only marginal among dissidents before 1989. Instead, he emphasizes the fundamental plurality of political and cultural languages (socialist, liberal, republican, Christian, nationalist) of human rights opposition. Understanding the historical complexity of dissent in late-communist dictatorships has become an urgent task in the era of the illiberal political challenge in which we currently live. First, it helps us to grasp the fragility of the post-1989 “liberal consensus” in the region. Second, and more importantly, it opens up the possibility of re-reading the untapped potentials of the late-twentieth-century human rights revolution.
Michal Kopecek specialises in Contemporary history of Central Europe and political philosophy. During his time at the IWM as a Robert Bosch Junior Visiting Fellow in 2001 he worked on the project, titled '“Revisionism” in Marxist Thought and its Political Role in Central Europe in the 1950s and 1960s'.