History of Modern Political Thought in East-Central Europe

Centre for Advances Study (CAS), Sofia
European Research Council (ERC)


Outline of The Envisioned Volume


  • Methodological issues: adaptation of “Western” methodological traditions to the East-Central European context; reassessing the local traditions of writing intellectual history; the question of the “underlying narrative”, i.e. “domesticating political and social modernity”; mechanisms of reception: problems of originality versus imitation; the question of common historical experiences that make our cases comparable – i.e. the imperial legacies in the region

‘Enlightened absolutisms,’ discourses of reform and civilizational narratives

  • Forging the new “reason of state”: Cameralism, social reformism, anti-clericalism (e.g. the impact of Josephinism; “enlightened Phanariots” in the Danubian Principalities; reformist Statistik, the Polish reformist movement culminating in the Constitution of May 3rd 1791) [Staszic, Kollątaj, Skerlecz, Schwartner]
  • The “national reactions”: re-evaluating the “local tradition” (estate patriotisms); the emergence of vernacularism and its political subtext (apologies of national languages) [Dobrovský, Jezierski, Obradović, etc.,]; Enlightened symbolic geographies and the local self-narrations (from noble sauvage to the “progress of civilization”)
  • Echoes and reception of the French Revolution (local “Jacobinisms”: Hungary, Dalmatia, Danubian Principalities, Rigas Velestinlis; the ideas of the Kościuszko Uprising; conservative reactions to the Revolution and “Counter-Enlightenment” /e.g. apologies of Orthodoxism, “naturalist” critiques of civilization/) [Patrike didaskalia, Al. Sturdza’s apology of Orthodoxism]

The Romantic framework of political ideas

  • The cultural-political programs of “national revivals” (continuities with the Enlightenment paradigms, such as the language of sociability and creating a “national public”; the emancipatory rhetoric; the search for historical models – the cult of archaism /Slavic, Latin, Indo-European, etc./ and “Golden Ages” [Karadžić, Lelewel, Daukantas, M. Horváth, I. Horvát, Kollár]; debates on transnational cultural and political loyalties /e.g. Panslavism/; Romantic Messianism [Mickiewicz, Towiański, A. Russo]
  • Liberal projects and debates of the Vormärz (e.g. the political ideas of Hungarian Centralists; the debates of Polish émigrés – the Czartoryski circle vs. radical democrats)
  • 1848 and its aftermath (the political ideas of the revolutionaries; federalist projects [Kossuth, Bălcescu, Buszczynski, Palacký]; the “social issue” during the revolutions – utopian socialists, anarchists, etc.; the ideologists of Counter-Revolution /loyalism, conservativism, supra-nationalism/)

Projects of state-building and nation-building in the second half of the 19th c.

  • The problem of the nation-state/empire and the broader regional context of regional “geo-politics” (“Eastern Question,” Pan-ideologies, the historical-ideological framework of the projected and actual Compromises, Dualisms and Trialisms, ideologies of activism/passivism in various imperial contexts)
  • The reshaping of liberalism after 1848 (the ideological profile of the state-building “national liberalisms”; facing the theoretical challenge of nationalism and socialism [Eötvös]; “Old” vs. “New” liberalisms) [the Brătianu brothers, Kogălniceanu, Grujić, Garašanin, L. Karavelov]
  • Positivism and the sciences of society; the “Critical turns” – historical-cultural-political narratives challenging the Romantic “liberal nationalist” constructions [Maiorescu, Bobrzysnki, Pekař, Szekfű]
  • The discourses of “national economy” (the regional impact of Fr. List, J. St. Mill, etc.) and the idea of “social economy” (e.g. the Polish discussion on “organic work”)

The Fin-de-siècle reconfiguration of political thought and the emergence of mass-politics

  • The impact of socialist doctrines and the “indigenization” of socialism (Serbian radicalism [Sv. Marković], Romanian populism [Stere, Gherea], Bulgarian agrarianism [Stamboliyski], anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists, social democracy)
  • The “new conservatives” and the “politics of identity” (the impact of Social Darwinism, the emergence of populist conservativism) [Eminescu, Iorga, A.C. Popovici, Dmowski]
  • Ideologies of transnational activism (competing visions of Feminism /between bio-political nationalism and internationalism/; Pacifism; Federalism /the Belvedere circle, Balkan federal projects, federalist plans on the Western fringe of the Russian imperial space, etc.,/)

Interwar negotiations of modernity

  • Nation-building discourses and their “Others” (Regionalisms, Irredentisms, Federalisms) [e.g. Masaryk, Dérer, Hlinka, Hodža, Venizelos, Piłsudski]
  • Liberalism on the defensive (projects of “neo-liberalism” /e.g. Zeletin and the early Manoilescu in Romania/; esthetic-political modernism [Peroutka, Boy-Zieleński, Lovinescu]; varieties of anti-totalitarianism [cultural neo-humanism: K. Kerényi, Rádl, B. Radica]; moderate conservativism /Z. Peric, Szekfű, Kramář/
  • The political philosophy and social thought of “peasantism” [Madgearu, Ralea, Stamboliyski, Radić, Erdei]
  • Conservative Revolution and integral nationalism (cultural and political “anti-modernisms”; generational ideologies [e.g. the “Young generation” in Romania]; radical autochthonisms and ethnic ontologies [Blaga, Eliade, J. Janev, S. Karácsony]; geopolitics and geophilosophy [Cvijić, Mehedinţi, Teleki]; politicization of religion – Political Catholicism, Political Orthodoxism [Crainic, Velimirović]; conceptions of “political myth”)
  • The Left: Socialism and the national question (the issue of self-determination); the agrarian question (the debate/dialogue of Marxists and agrarian populism); the debate of “Muscovites” and “national communists”; “Popular Front”-ideologies and anti-fascist mobilization

After 1945: Totalitarianism, Anti-Totalitarianism, Reformism

  • The “Post-War Transition years” (ideological debates of the democratic ‘interludes’ /e.g. on the symbolic geographical reorientation: Slavism vs. Occidentalism in the Czech context/ [Bibó, Černý]; visions of democratic socialism; Christian Democracy and other anti-Communist ideological offers)
  • Stalinism(s) and its critiques (nationalist ideological legitimation of Stalinism [Nejedlý, J. Révai]; anti-nationalist Stalinism – /e.g. M. Roller’s and E. Molnár’s historical narratives/; the voices of dissent [Cz. Miłosz]; the emergence of Titoism and the debates around its ideological profile [Kardelj, Djilas, Bakarić, etc.]
  • De-Stalinization and Reform Communisms after 1953 (the ideological references of the Hungarian and Polish 1956 and the Prague Spring; “national Communisms” and their ambiguous heritage of de-Stalinization and re-Stalinization; varieties of “Marxist revisionism” [Lukács and the Lukács-school, Schaff, Kolakowski, Kosík, the Praxis group]; socio-economic reformism  [Šik, Kornai, Kalecki, Lange, Brus]; [in the case of post-1945 Greece, we will not be able to fit it into all categories but, obviously, the ideological development of the Greek left can be linked to this framework]
  • Nationalist and clerical underground movements in the 1950-60s [Catholic Church in opposition: Wyszyński, Mindszenty, Beran; evolutionist Catholicism of Znak, Stomma, Mazowiecki, activist Catholicism and Christian politics, Piasecki, J. L. Hromádka]
  • The political thought of the exile movements (émigré subcultures from extreme right to Trotskysm; common regional and ideological platforms of anti-Communism; new realism and cooperation with home opposition) [J. Giedroyć, J. Mieroszewski, Tigrid]
  • Political ideas of the opposition movements of the 1970-80s (“anti-politics,” the language of civil society and human rights, the reinvention of Central European symbolic geography, the idea of “self-limiting revolution” [Michnik, Kuron, Staniszkis, Patočka, Havel, Tischner, Konrád, Vajda, Kis etc.]; “ethno-cultural revivalism” [D. Čosić, Tudjman, Gy. Illyés, Noica]

The political ideas of 1989 and “after the End of History”

  • The ambiguous legacy of the liberal transition package: economic neo-liberalism and/or rhetoric of “human rights” and civil society
  • The rise of neo-nationalisms in the region (the revival of inter-war traditions, such as Endecja, Iron Guard, neo-Orthodoxism, L’udáks, Baltic authoritarianisms, Hungarian ethno-populism, etc.)
  • Attempts at forging a “new left” (nostalgic and technocratic post-communism, social-liberalism, reconstituting social democracy, “third way” discourses, anti-globalism)
  • Debates on “Europeanization” [once again, while the chronology is obviously different, the debates of the 1980-90s in Greece can be linked to this context]