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WHAT'S LEFT, WHAT'S RIGHT? / Vol. 60, No. 3 (Fall 1993)

Arien Mack, Editor

This article focuses on the use of clichés in politics. It draws from essays by Vaclav Havel. In a speech delivered by Havel in 1965 at a Union of Czechoslovak Writers, he attacked pseudoideological thinking, thinking of the sort that separated the words used from the realities that they purported to describe. Words lose their meaning. They become the occasion for drawing attention to an ideological nostrum rather than to a genuine human dilemma, fear or hope. Havel believed that if the people cannot see individual, specific things, they cannot see anything at all.

This article stresses the need for left and right ideologies to signify certain essential political and cultural differences. Years after the French Revolution, when the division between Left and Right began to be used to map political alignments, it seems obvious to many that such political differentiation has lost its meaning. Certainly, it is argued, the Left no longer can be said to have reality--with the collapse of international communism, the decomposition of the Soviet bloc, the abandonment of socialism by those living under its actually existing form, and the recent conservative drift of politics in many Western countries.

This article examines the conceptual remnants of socialism following the collapse of the Soviet Union system during the late 1980s. It also addressed the principal foundational issues remaining in the theoretical elaboration and political pursuit of a socialist future. Alec Nove published a new edition of his important book, The Economics of Feasible Socialism, in 1991. He aptly described the surge of skepticism confronting those who would continue to discuss his subject: Much has changed since 1980, when the original version of this book was started.

This article argues that human discourse throughout the world is dominated by a monoculture as a result of the collapse of state socialism. This argument is illustrated using examples drawn from research on the US, where the monoculture penetrates deeply, but also from research on contemporary China, with the opening to the West and the widespread breakdown of the credibility of socialist ideology, the monoculture has engulfed society with dramatic, unsettling suddenness. This global monoculture is internally divided into three main linguistic forms. Each of these languages provides an axis for conversation between those who take a position on the right and the left.

This article examines varieties of US ideological spectra. There are four major elite spectra. The first, the current mainstream spectrum used by politicians and journalists, defines ideological positions in connection with the major political parties. A second emphasizes methods of political change, and a third uses amount and direction of change. The fourth, which is considered class-related, groups seemingly unrelated ideological positions which correlate with the class of holders. Although all four spectra consider egalitarian values as one of their elements, none puts much emphasis on it.

This article investigates the interrelationship between politics and culture following the cold war of 1950s. During this era, when the cold war seemed like a fact of nature, the world of the last four years has not been easy to comprehend. The news all through the fall of 1989 had almost a magical quality. A new spirit of freedom and self-determination was finally transforming the world's ossified Marxist dictatorships.

This article focuses on the role of religion and women in the transformation of public culture. Women have long been the carriers of religious sensibility from one generation to the next. Evidence would suggest that they still are, but in ways that are anything but traditional. Although women have not entered the clergy in significant numbers until relatively recently, women were ordained as ministers before the Civil War. The first Christian woman minister, the Reverend Antoinette L. Brown, was ordained in the Congregational Church in New York in September 1853. By 1921, when Reverend Brown died, an estimated 3,000 or more women were ministers in the US.

This article explores the effort to extend identity politics through the ethnicization of sex and gender. Such an effort attempts to undermine the reliance on social constructionist models of sexuality and gender, and to remap identity from the body outward as opposed to observing the ways in which social prescriptions were mapped onto the body. Sexuality is acquired and maintained by social structure and culture. Gender and sexuality are learned forms of conduct and are linked differently in different cultures. Sexual conduct is a gender enactment. In essentialist models, everyone has a deep, unitary self that is relatively stable and unchanging.

This article looks at the conservative position in post-communist Poland. There are some well-known explanations of why liberal thinking and practices were so weak before 1939 in Poland and most of the other East Central European countries. Most frequently, the main factor cited is a social structure with a fragile middle class. But this reasoning, in which cause and result are really the same thing but named differently to create the illusion of reasoning, is a classic sociological mistake.

This article presents an observation of the political and social events in Eastern Europe in 1989. One can sympathize with Karl Marx in 1843; it is not easy to interpret the revolutions of others. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the role Marx assigned to the practical French belonged to the Poles, while the one that he half-ironically reserved for the theoretical Germans fell to Hungarians. But fortunately, in 1988 at the latest, the action came to Hungary too, and, along with Poles, Hungarians were to lead the great transformation that spread to the Western, the Eastern, and the Southern peripheries of the Soviet imperium.


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