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Fantasies of Salvation

Fantasies of Salvation: Democracy, Nationalism, and Myth in Post-Communist Europe

Vladimir Tismaneanu
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Fantasies of Salvation
    Book Description:

    Eastern Europe has become an ideological battleground since the collapse of the Soviet Union, with liberals and authoritarians struggling to seize the ground lost by Marxism. InFantasies of Salvation, Vladimir Tismaneanu traces the intellectual history of this struggle and warns that authoritarian nationalists pose a serious threat to democratic forces.

    A leading observer of the often baffling world of post-Communist Europe, Tismaneanu shows that extreme nationalistic and authoritarian thought has been influential in Eastern Europe for much of this century, while liberalism has only shallow historical roots. Despite democratic successes in places such as the Czech Republic and Poland, he argues, it would be a mistake for the West to assume that liberalism will always triumph. He backs this argument by showing how nationalist intellectuals have encouraged ethnic hatred in such countries as Russia, Romania, and the former Yugoslavia by reviving patriotic myths of heroes, scapegoats, and historical injustices. And he shows how enthusiastically these myths have been welcomed by people desperate for some form of "salvation" from political and economic uncertainty.

    On a theoretical level, Tismaneanu challenges the common ideas that the ideological struggle is between "right" and "left" or between "nationalists" and "internationalists." In a careful analysis of the conflict's ideological roots, he argues that it is more useful and historically accurate to view the struggle as between those who embrace the individualist traditions of the Enlightenment and those who reject them.

    Tismaneanu himself has been active in the intellectual battles he describes, particularly in his native Romania, and makes insightful use of interviews with key members of the dissident movements of the 1970s and 1980s. He offers original observations of countries from the Baltic to the Black Sea and expresses his ideas in a vivid and forceful style.Fantasies of Salvationis an indispensable book for both academic and nonacademic readers who wish to understand the forces shaping one of the world's most important and unpredictable regions.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2250-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface: Why Eastern Europe and Why Care?
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction After Marx: The Return of Political Myth
    (pp. 3-22)

    The revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe have shattered the world political arrangements, confronting the individual, East and West, with new, unexpected dilemmas. Initially celebrated as the triumph of democratic individualism over the Leninist autocracies, these changes have led to the resurgence of neoromantic, populist, anti-modern forces in the region. For all practical purposes Leninism is extinct as a teleological project, but its leftovers continue to affect the post-Leninist political cultures. Many of those who in the past espoused the homogenizing logic of communist ideology are ready these days to adhere to no less collectivist visions of society, viscerally inimical...

  5. One Resurrecting Utopia: Ideology versus Mythology
    (pp. 23-37)

    What is the difference between myth and ideology? Is there a difference between myth and ideology? A short answer would be that a myth proposes a story, whereas ideology has its roots in systematic ideas. But don’t stories have their roots in ideas? The story told by the myth—in this case the political myth—is rooted in beliefs, aspirations, deep expectations, hopes, frustrations, illusions, and disillusions. All ideologies do have a mythological core, but in addition they build up conceptual edifices. As John Girling put it: “‘Myth’ is fusion of concept and emotion; a passionate desire to achieve a...

  6. Two The Leninist Debris, or Waiting for Perón
    (pp. 38-64)

    Left, right, center: these notions have strange and elusive meanings under post-communism. Using interpretive Western paradigms creates false analogies and explains little, if anything. The abuses committed in the name of the Marxist faith in the former Soviet Union and East-Central Europe engendered apprehensions toward any explicitly socialist program. This explains why post-communist leftist leaders have gone out of their way to emphasize their commitment to the free market, private property, and political pluralism. Poland’s President Aleksander Kwasniewski (a former minister of youth under the communist regime in the 1980s) or Hungary’s prime minister Gyula Horn (a former Communist minister...

  7. Three Vindictive and Messianic Mythologies: Post-Communist Nationalism and Populism
    (pp. 65-87)

    No political dream has proved to be more resilient, protean, and enduring in this century than nationalism. A comprehensive and potentially aggressive constellation of symbols, emotions, and ideas, nationalism can also offer the redemptive language of liberation for long-subjugated or humiliated groups. Conductor Leonard Bernstein used to say that whatever statement one makes about Gustav Mahler’s music the opposite is equally true. This is the case with nationalism, as well. It is often described as archaic, anti-modern, traditionalist—in short, reactionary. Other interpretations see it as a driving force of liberation, an ideology of collective emancipation, and a source of...

  8. Four Scapegoating Fantasies: Fascism, Anti-Semitism, and Myth Making in East Central Europe
    (pp. 88-110)

    Failed expectations result in anger and a loss of morale. The much-acclaimed advent of democratic societies in the post-communist world has turned out to be a more problematic and convoluted process than was initially thought. After the early stage of civic enthusiasm and cheerful pan-European slogans, these societies have discovered that they are very much on their own, and that Europe (or the West) is not necessarily eager to accept them as full-fledged members of the “club.” True, the Berlin Wall perished as a palpable and disgraceful symbol of separation between two worlds, one of rights and prosperity (however imperfect...

  9. Five Is the Revolution Over? The Myth of Decommunization and the Quest for Political Justice
    (pp. 111-140)

    Can Communism be brought to trial? How should the fledgling democracies deal with the former ruling elites? Is it possible to rectify the aberrations of the past by bringing to justice those who were responsible for the creation and perpetuation of the totalitarian order? How does one establish a persuasive hierarchy of guilt and, even more significantly, how does one avoid the risks of engaging in collective punishment? To put it briefly: how can the post-communist political communities reconcile legitimacy and legality? These disturbing questions indicate the moral, political, and legal challenges connected with the imperative of a revolutionary break...

  10. Six A Velvet Counterrevolution? Dissidents, Dreamers, and Realpolitik
    (pp. 141-152)

    Whatever happened to the former dissidents of East-Central Europe? Was their philosophy just a figment of utopian imagination, an indulgence in self-deception about the nature of politics? Was their resistance and the ethical wager it implied an ephemeral moment of intellectual self-aggrandizement? These questions bear not only on the realities of post-communism, but also on the relationship between Western intellectuals and their peers in the East.

    Were we wrong to assume that post-communist politics would abide by the universalistic principles professed by the dissidents of the 1970s and 1980s? Did we, in the West, exaggerate the role of these communities...

  11. Conclusion The Mythological Construction of Reality: Political Complexity in a Post-Communist World
    (pp. 153-168)

    As a result of the collapse of communism, a situation of epistemological anarchy has emerged. Traditional boundaries, embedded memories, and predictable outcomes have been challenged and overturned. The idols of yesteryear are dead, but do we know anything about the new ones? What has remained of what, during the years of upheaval from 1989 through 1991, appeared to be an anti-communist but also a pro-democratic consensus? How many of the once ostensibly powerful and promising parties still matter in the political game? What has remained of the once exhilarating calls for European integration, civil society, and a post-Machiavellian political life?...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 169-210)
  13. Index
    (pp. 211-216)