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A History of Modern Political Thought in East Central Europe. Volume I: Negotiating Modernity in the ‘Long Nineteenth Century’

A History of Modern Political Thought in East Central Europe. Volume I: Negotiating Modernity in the ‘Long Nineteenth Century’
Editor(s): Balázs Trencsényi, Maciej Janowski, Monika Baar, Maria Falina, Michal Kopecek
Publisher: Oxford University Press (2016)
Language: English

This book has been a product of the research under the “Negotiating Modernity” project supported by the European Research Council and hosted by the Centre for Advanced Study Sofia

A History of Modern Political Thought in East Central Europe. Volume I: Negotiating Modernity in the ‘Long Nineteenth Century’

The two volumes, authored by an international team of researchers, offer the first-ever synthetic overview of the history of modern political thought in East Central Europe. Covering almost twenty national cultures and languages, the work goes beyond the conventional nation-centered narrative and offers a novel vision especially sensitive to the cross-cultural entanglement of discourses. Devising a regional perspective, the authors avoid projecting Western European analytical and conceptual schemes on the whole continent, and develop instead new concepts, patterns of periodization, and interpretative models. They also reject the self-enclosing Eastern or Central European regionalist narratives, emphasizing instead the region’s multifarious dialogue with the rest of the world. The two volumes aim to make these cultures available to the global “market of ideas” and to rethink some of the basic assumptions about the history of modern political thought, and modernity as such. The first volume deals with the period from the Late Enlightenment to the First World War. It is structured along four broad chronological and thematic units: Enlightenment reformism, Romanticism and national revivals, late nineteenth-century institutionalization of the national and state-building projects, and the new ideologies of the fin-de-siècle facing the rise of mass politics. The authors trace the continuities and ruptures of political discourses, focusing especially on the modalities by which political thinkers from this part of the world sought to bridge the gap between the idealized Western type of modernity and their own societies challenged by overlapping national claims, social and cultural fragmentation, and lack of institutional continuity.

Keywords: political thought, East Central Europe, modernity, intellectual history, Enlightenment, Romanticism, positivism, liberalism, nationalism, mass politics



Part I: The Discovery of Modernity: Enlightened Statecraft, Discourses of Reform, and Civilizational Narratives

  • The Politics of Improvement
  • National Projects and Civilizational Hierarchies
  • The Repercussions of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars

Part II: Spiritualizing Modernity: The Romantic Framework of Political Ideas

  • “Playing the Piano that does not yet have Strings”? The Cultural-Political Programs of the “National Revivals”
  • Political Visions of the Vormärz
  • Brotherhood and Disappointment

Part III: Institutionalizing Modernity: Conceptions of State-Building and Nation-Building in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century

  • The Interplay of National and Imperial Principles of Organization
  • The Political Implications of Positivism
  • The Rise and Fall of “National Liberalism” after 1848

Part IV: Taming Modernity: The Fin de Siècle and the Rise of Mass Politics

  • Liberals, Conservatives, and Mass Politics
  • The Left and the Ambiguity of the Marxist Package
  • Coping with Diversity
  • The Faces of Modernity
  • The Great War
Reviews and Awards:

“This authoritative revision succeeds brilliantly thanks to the innovative and sophisticated approaches developed by its authors. Challenging traditional and recent conventions of intellectual history writing, they situate Eastern European political thought of the nineteenth century simultaneously in its local, regional, and transnational contexts. Rejecting tired nationalist teleologies, claims of an Eastern European Sonderweg, or binary structures that categorized political ideas as either local in origin or imported from an imagined West, the authors frame Eastern European political thought in fundamentally European terms, even as they elucidate its comparative local and regional dimensions.” Pieter M. Judson, European University Institute

“This volume is the first comparative and transnational history of nineteenth-century political thought ever written about the broadly and challengingly defined region of East Central Europe that includes also relevant parts of the Balkans. Given the ethnic, cultural, and linguistic variety of the region, such work could only be accomplished as a team undertaking, which in this case has successfully overcome the usual sorting of national pigeon-holes next to each other. The book thus combines well-grounded local knowledge, paying due attention to the multilayered and multidirectional cultural transfers, while also being sensitive to the European social and political context.” Miroslav Hroch, Charles University, Prague

“This impressive comparatist survey two centuries of political thought traced across a terrain of daunting political and linguistic complexitywill not only serve as a benchmark for future scholarship, but also as an inspiration. A shining example of what talented scholars can achieve through dedicated international cooperation, it restores a very important part of Europe to our understanding of European history.” Joep Leerssen, University of Amsterdam