Dimensions of Modernity:
The Enlightenment and its Contested Legacies

Junior Visiting Fellows’ Conferences, Vol. XXXIV
IWM, Vienna 2015 [Published on the Web]

Edited by: Paweł Marczewski and Stefan Eich

Contributions by: Olga Baranova, Stefan Eich, Jakub Homolka, Paweł Marczewski, Magdalena Nowicka, Svitlana Potapenko, and Stanislav Zakharkin

Dimensions of Modernity: The Enlightenment and its Contested Legacies

The 34th Junior Fellows’ Conference, held in December of 2014, engaged with the Enlightenment and the contested legacies of modernity. Papers took two different routes into this topic. One group of papers returned to the threshold of modernity in the eighteenth century and sought to rethink the history of eighteenth century debates. A second group …
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Politics of Memory of the Holocaust in the Soviet Union

The paper investigates how the issue of the Holocaust was presented in Soviet historiography in post-war period. Despite the fact that the Holocaust is an integral part of the history of WWII, and that about one third of all killed Jews were Soviet citizens who often met their death in numerous killing sites on the occupied territories of the Soviet Union, the Jewish tragedy was largely ignored by Soviet historians. Western scholars argued that, due to Stalinist anti-Semitism and its legacy, Soviet authorities deliberately suppressed any public discussion of the Holocaust. They referred to the notorious example of the Soviet treatment of the Black Book of Soviet Jewry prepared by Ilya Ehrenburg and Vasilij Grossman. The book, which contained important material on the fate of Soviet Jews during WWII was banned in 1948. The paper acknowledges that Soviet accounts in general downplayed or universalized the tragedy of the Jews and that Soviet scholars often preferred to refrain from mentioning the Jewish origin of many Nazi victims and Soviet resistance fighters. However, it demonstrates that the Holocaust was not completely erased from Soviet history books, but was adapted and rewritten within the confines of a conforming ideological narrative. It also argues that, despite centralized censorship, there were some variations in historiographies of national republics. This paper does not disregard Stalinist anti-Semitism, but it also provides a more nuanced understanding of the whole spectrum of ideological reasons why the tragedy of the Jews was downplayed in many works of the Soviet period.
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Paper Money and German Romanticism

In February 1797 Britain suspended the convertibility of its currency into gold and thereby introduced fiat paper money to finance its war against revolutionary France. This British embrace of fiat money left a lasting mark on the political and philosophical imagination of a whole generation of post-Kantian thinkers in the German lands. Whether radical Kantians, Young Romantics, or Anglophile Hanoverians, in the 1790s German philosophers began to be interested in the politics of money. By creatively updating the classical metaphorical link between coins and words for an age of paper money, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Adam Müller, and others were able to grasp the poetic nature of modern fiat money as a circulating sign sustained by the modern state and the collective imagination of its citizens.
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Patočka and the “Disenchantment of the World” Linking Patočka to the Contemporary Discussions of Religion and Secularism

This working paper deals with the term “disenchantment of the world” which was originally introduced by the German sociologist Max Weber (1964–1920) in the lecture Science as a Vocation (1917). More precisely, my main aim is to ask whether the contemporary discussions on religion, modernity, and secularisation developed around Weber’s term could be linked to the work of the Czech philosopher Jan Patočka (1907–1977). In order to achieve this aim, the paper outlines three main goals: (I.) to introduce Weber’s original formulation of the problem of “disenchantment of the world” as well as its contemporary reading within the discussions on “secularisation”; (II.) to discuss the existing philosophical interpretations of Patočka’s concept of religion, with an emphasis on the role of Christianity, and (III.) to outline my own reading of Patočka’s work; pointing out the links to classical sociology, which can be most notably found in his writing Supercivilization and Its Inner Conflict (1950s) and subsequently followed in the Heretical Essays in the Philosophy of History (1975). In this way, the paper outlines an interpretation of Patočka’s work which highlights its potential to contribute to the contemporary reception of the distinction between “disenchantment”, on the one hand, and “secularisation”, on the other.
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Janus-faced Enlightenment and the Quest for General Equality in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

The paper focuses on common ground between the concept of general equality, espoused by proponents of radical Enlightenment in Western Europe, and the idea of liberty cultivated by Polish noble republicanism. Convergence of these seemingly irreconcilable perspectives in political treaties of half-forgotten political writers of the eighteenth century, like Michal Wielhorski, Adam Wawrzyniec Rzewuski and Wojciech Turski, resulted in the vision of an alternative modernity that differed in some important respects from programmes of contemporary Polish mainstream reformers. It rested on the assumption that civic capacities do not depend on wealth and therefore civic and political rights should be extended beyond nobility. It also included a stark defence of the decentralised state and a decisive condemnation of Western colonial practices of the period. By discussing such an alternative modernity the paper aims to challenge the persistent image – forged in the epoch of the Enlightenment by Western philosophers, along with travel writers, and recurring to this day in many historical accounts of the region – of a static eighteenth-century Eastern Europe, where servitude remained unquestioned and unreflected upon by ruling elites.
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Self-criticism in Public Discourse: A Device of Modernization? The Case of Eastern Europe

This article discusses the vitality of the concept of self-criticism as a communicational and discursive phenomenon in Eastern Eu­rope undergoing modernization. In the present study, self-criticism is understood as a reckoning of one’s self and criticism directed at its own subject. The idea of self-criticism dates back to the ancient Greek maxim of epimeleia heautou (‘care of the self’) as well as the Christian call for examination of the self and the auto-da-fé rituals. In Eastern Europe under the communist regime public acts of self-criticism constituted an official procedure of expressing one’s loyalty to the ruling party. Readiness to perform self-criticism could result from one’s opportunism or from extreme pressure put on the individual e.g. in show trials of so-called “enemies of the party”. Growing disillusionment with communism among intellectuals led to self-criticism aimed at self-reckoning with their engagement in the regime. In post-communist times, self-criticism condemning one’s communist past has become an important element of public and political communication. It was quickly accompanied by transition disillusionment’s self-criticism stemming from the disappointment with the political, economic and social outcomes of modernization implemented in Eastern Europe after the change. Nowadays, self-criticism plays the role of a litmus test of social tensions deriving from the contradictory approaches to modernization scenarios in the region.
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Cossack Officials in Sloboda Ukraine: from Local Elite to Imperial Nobility?

This article explores the history of a boundary region in Eastern Ukraine known as Sloboda Ukraine (Slobozhanshchyna). Its origins can be traced back to the mid-17th century, when mass Ukrainian migrations from the Dnieper banks eastward resulted in the establishment of five Cossack regiments – Ostrohoz’k, Kharkiv, Okhtyrka, Sumy and Izium. The Cossack officials soon constituted themselves as a local oligarchy. They concentrated power and wealth in their hands and became closely connected through intermarriage. They adapted a noble outlook as attested to by the practice of using coats of arms. Being formally separated, Sloboda Ukraine Cossack regiments were politically influenced by the Hetmanate. In the second half of the 18th century, the Russian empire resorted to the intensified centralization, integration and unification of national peripheries into one imperial body. Under the pressure of reforms, introduced by the empress Catherine II and dictated by the ideas of Enlightened Absolutism the Cossacks’ rights of autonomy were abolished. The long and painful political transformations paralleled the process of the incorporation of Cossack elites into the imperial nobility. In the case of Sloboda Ukraine, the social and economic privileges granted by Saint Petersburg to the Cossack officials happened to be the most effective integrative tool. However, at the beginning of the 19th century, the Cossack past, completely mythologized, served as an ideological foundation for modern Ukrainian national building.
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Virtuality as a Basic Concept of Postrealism

The article argues that the concept of virtuality, associated with contemporary technologies of digital virtual worlds, has in fact roots in medieval ontology. By returning to the roots of the concept of virtuality, the author attempts to propose a philosophical framework for analyzing virtual reality that would move beyond simply labelling it as hollow and artificial.
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