1989: Thinking Revolution in East-Central Europe

International Conference, October 2-3, 2014, Villa Lanna, Prague (V sadech 1, Praha 6)

Organized by:
The Department for the Study of Late Socialism and Post-Socialism, Institute of Contemporary History, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic; and the Department for the Study of Modern Czech Philosophy, Philosophy Institute, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic

1989 was a year of democratic revolutions and the fall of “real socialism” in Central Europe. Did it signal the end of revolutionary regimes and the beginning of a “restoration,” or rather the replacement of worn-out communist revolutions with a new, neoliberal revolution? Or, considering the nonviolent character of the events, did they really constitute a revolution at all?

All modern political identities and ideological currents are marked by their attitudes toward the phenomenon of revolution and toward various historical revolutionary models. The chief aim of this conference is to historicize the democratic revolutions of 1989 in Czechoslovakia and East-Central Europe, moving beyond the dominant “transitological” understanding of these revolutions in terms of the “End of Communism” and the “Beginning of Democracy.” This historicization will be achieved by scrutinizing historical accounts and contemporary reflections of observers and actors involved in the revolutions. These reflections were not merely spontaneous observations. They were a part of long-term intellectual and conceptual developments, firmly rooted in specific cultural and political tendencies, expert cultures, and contexts, which not only helped to structure a general understanding of the historical changes but also shaped ideas about the future, which in turn helped to set the foundations for emerging political culture in the region. In other words, we would like to ask how certain interpretations of the European and global revolutionary experience influenced understandings (and self-understandings) of the revolutions of 1989.

The conference will focus on the following themes:


Democratic, Liberal, or Neoliberal Revolution?

The events of 1989 led to a transformation of the social order. This panel poses the question of how to characterize this new order and how social and economic sciences began to situate the events of 1989 in the global context [more…]


Dissent, Post-Dissent, and the Ideas of 1989

In a moment of historical change, the dissidents in East Central Europe represented the most legitimate alternative elite. As a whole, however, they did not succeed in establishing themselves in a position of power [more…]


The End of History or the End of the Future?

This panel will be devoted to the meaning of 1989 in attempts to research future. What predictions or developmental tendencies were addressed by the study of the future (“prognostics” or “futurology”) in the 1970s and 1980s? [more…]


Theories of Soviet-type Society

This panel focuses on the numerous theories of Soviet-type society, especially theories of state capitalism, theories of degenerated workers’ states, and theories of a new mode of production. We will analyze the subversive influence of these theories relative [more…]


The Second Life of the Prague Spring in 1989

Through an exploration of the generation of “sixty-eighters,” this panel is intended to trace the changing function of the “Prague Spring” in Czech, Slovak, and international debates about the disintegration of the Soviet bloc. [more…]