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Stephen Holmes on Revolution - Dictionary of Arguments

Krastev I 23
Velvet Revolution/Krastev/Holmes: The left praised these velvet revolutions as expressions of popular power. The right extolled them as both a triumph of the free market over the command economy and the well-deserved victory of free government over totalitarian dictatorship. What ensured that these revolutions would remain ‘velvet’ was their background hostility to utopias and political experiments. By 1989, moreover, regime insiders themselves had fully switched from utopian faith to mechanical rituals and from ideological commitment to corruption. They were thus fortuitously in sync with the dissidents who had no interest in remaking their societies to conform to some historically unprecedented ideal. Far from searching for an untested wonderland or craving anything ingeniously new, the leading figures in these revolutions aimed at overturning one system only in order to copy another. >Imitation/Krastev.
François Furet, pungently observed: ‘Not a single new idea has come out of Eastern Europe in 1989.’(1)
Jürgen Habermas, a life-long advocate of a cultural orientation towards the West and of remaking his country along Western lines, concurred. He warmly welcomed ‘the lack of ideas that are either innovative or oriented towards the future’ after 1989, since for him the Central and Eastern European revolutions were ‘rectifying revolutions’(2) or ‘catch-up revolutions’.(3)
Krastev I 24
Krastev: Their goal was to return Central and Eastern European societies to the mainstream of Western modernity, allowing the Central and East Europeans to gain what the West Europeans already possessed.


1. Cited in Dahrendorf, Reflections on the Revolution, p. 27.
2. Jürgen Habermas, ‘What Does Socialism Mean Today? The Rectifying Revolution and the Need for New Thinking on the Left’, New Left Review 183 (September–October 1990), pp. 5, 7.
3. Jürgen Habermas, Die Nachholende Revolution (Suhrkamp, 1990).


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

LawHolm I
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
The Common Law Mineola, NY 1991

Krastev I
Ivan Krastev
Stephen Holmes
The Light that Failed: A Reckoning London 2019


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2021-06-15
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