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Between Past and Future

Sorin Antohi

I. Meanings of 1989: Present Significance of the Past

4. 1989 and the Future of Democracy

Jeffrey C. Isaac

Texte intégral

  • 1 The author wishes to thank the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the Open Society Institute f (...)

1Note portant sur l’auteur1

  • 2 Jürgen Habermas, “What Does Socialism Mean Today? The Revolutions of Recuperation and the Need for (...)

2What is the future of democracy? And, in a vein only slightly less grandiose, what is the relationship between this future and what has come to be called “1989”? As we approach the millennium it is tempting to address our subject in a millenarian fashion. Indeed, the subject seems to invite such an approach. For the velvet revolutions of 1989 were surely world historical events—even if, as Jürgen Habermas put it, they were “rectifying revolutions”, reiterating classical themes of liberal democracy2. The overturning of communism, first in Eastern Europe and then in Russia, signified the death of revolutionary Marxism and transformed the political geography of Europe and, indeed, the world. The year 1989 seemed to inaugurate a new world, or at least a new world order.

  • 3 Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?” National Interest 16 (Summer 1989
  • 4 Samuel P. Huntington, “No Exit: The Errors of Endism”, National Interest 17 (Fall 1989). See also (...)
  • 5 See Francis Fukuyama, “The Primacy of Culture”, Journal of Democracy 6:1 (January 1995); Francis F (...)

3This at least was the message of Francis Fukuyama’s much-cited “The End of History”, which echoed the western media in proclaiming the global advent of liberal democracy3. The postcelebration hangover was not long in coming. The so-called “Fukuyama thesis” engendered powerful criticism from liberal skeptics like Samuel Huntington and Jean-Francois Revel, who insisted, in Huntington’s words, that “to hope for a benign end of history is human. To expect it to happen is unrealistic. To plan on it happening is disastrous4.” Fukuyama himself voiced reservations, first in a series of qualifying follow-ups, then in his next book, Trust, which gives voice to a widespread concern among liberal writers that liberal democracy is not faring well in the world, even in the places formerly known as the “free world5”. This skepticism among liberal public intellectuals is mirrored in the burgeoning political science subfield of “transitology”, which takes as its premise the problematic character of democratic transition and consolidation.

  • 6 See Jacques Rupnik, “Postcommunist Divide”, Journal of Democracy 10:1 (January 1999): 57-62.

4This brings us back to our question about “1989 and the future of democracy”. We know that “1989” is not in any simple sense a story of the ascendancy of freedom or democracy. We know that the record of the postcommunist countries is varied: in Central Europe (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia) and the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) versions of liberal, capitalist democracy have been instituted; in Russia and certain European parts of the former Soviet Union— Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine—quasi electoralist, authoritarian regimes have been established on the basis of a new kind of primitive accumulation and gangster capitalism; and in the Transcaucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia) and Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) communism has given way to smoldering ethnonationalist conflict, civil war, and dictatorial government6.

  • 7 See Tony Judt, Burden of Responsibility: Blum, Camus, Aron and the French Twentieth Century (Chica (...)

5Thus 1989 had a bright side—so to speak—and a dark side. These are two sides of the same coin. It is disingenuous to concentrate on one at the expense of the other. The structure of this conference is true to this insight. Far from celebratory, the conference has adopted a tone that is cautious, skeptical, and incredulous about the prospects for democracy in the wake of 1989. Following Tony Judt in his new book, The Burden of Responsibility: Blum, Camus, Aron and the French Twentieth Century, we might say that the tone of the conference is Aronian: calm, detached, realistic, determined to generate reliable causal accounts that might produce tentative predictions and inform intelligent policies that advance liberal democratic values7. This is as it should be. The production of such knowledge is surely one of the most important vocations of the intellectual-as-scholar.

6While in what follows I will not abjure such a posture entirely, I want to sound a different theme, a Camusian theme. I want to prick our consciences and prod our thinking by pursuing the question of “1989 and the future of democracy” in a slightly different and deliberately provocative way—by focusing my attention not on the subject of velvet revolution but on the subject of “Bosnia” and its meanings. I want to do this to emphasize some of the profound challenges confronting democracy today, but also to underscore the continuing importance of creative thought and action on behalf of democratic values. Having done so, I will briefly adopt a more Aronian posture, suggesting some lines of democratic inquiry and experimentation appropriate to the challenges of the next century.

The Meanings of Bosnia

7Bosnia is a place in the heart of Europe. What can it mean to speak of the “meanings” of a place? It all depends. In some contexts to speak of the meaning of a place is clearly to succumb to a kind of political romanticism, to appeal to collective passions, and to invoke associations in a hyperbolic manner. In this way, for example, “remember the Alamo” can be seen as incitement to action against the Mexicans. There are good reasons to be suspicious of the idea that profound meaning can be derived from an evocation of place, for this idea is often invoked for pernicious and chauvinistic purposes; think, for example, of the historical meanings attached to Kosovo by Serbian nationalists. But there are certain situations in which a place-name can come to symbolize something more than mere sentimentality or resentment, something historical and profound. “Auschwitz” was such a place-name for the generation that survived World War II. In many ways, I think “Bosnia” is such a place-name for us—we who inhabit advanced industrial societies and who believe ourselves to enjoy the fruits of civil and political freedom and enlightenment.

8When the history of twentieth century political thought is written, the decade of the 1990s will claim credit, among other things, for a unique and distinctive contribution to the lexicon of politics: the concept of “ethnic cleansing.” Bosnia is the site of this philosophic innovation. It is not as if the activities to which this concept is linked are novel. To the contrary, they have become chronic features of our political landscape in this century. And yet, as linguistic philosophers tell us, the invention of a concept is the enactment of a world. What is this world that has been enacted—that is being enacted—in Bosnia, and what is its significance for thinking about democracy in our time?

9If in other parts of East Central Europe the demise of communism liberated democratic oppositions and helped to set in motion a process— for good and ill—of political and economic liberalization, in Yugoslavia it had the effect of setting in motion a process of rapid and precipitous political implosion. The republics of Bosnia, Croatia, and Slovenia quickly declared their independence and moved toward secession. Anxious Serbian ethnic minorities within these areas recoiled in fear; and into this political caesura stepped Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian ex-communist dictator of Yugoslavia, who used the crisis as an opportunity to enforce the political project of a “greater Serbia”. A thorough and detailed account of events and causalities is beyond the scope of my argument here. The unfolding of events was no doubt complicated; political corruption, vice, and violence were practiced in many forms by many parties to a conflict in many ways complex. But I think it is possible nonetheless to offer a thumbnail sketch of the inhumanity in question, and for this one can do no better than to draw on David Rieff’s impassioned Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West.

  • 8 David Rieff, Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1995 (...)

“This is what happened. Two hundred thousand Bosnian Muslims died, in full view of the world’s television cameras, and more than two million other people were forcibly displaced. A state formally recognized by the European Community and the United States...and by the United Nations...was allowed to be destroyed. While it was being destroyed, United Nations military forces and officials looked on, offering ‘humanitarian’ assistance and protesting...that there was no will in the international community to do anything more. Two successive American Presidents, one Republican, the second Democratic, declared over and over that they represented the last remaining superpower and yet simultaneously insisted that they were helpless....And this was not, as so many pretended, the result of some grim, ineluctable law of history, but rather a testimony of specific choices made by those who governed the rich world and by civil servants who administered the international system that they had created8.”

  • 9 In addition to Rieff, Slaughterhouse, see the following: Roy Gutman, Witness to Genocide (New York (...)

10The Bosnian “civil war” began in the summer of 1991. It was brought to an official end only in the summer of 1995, when the Dayton Accords brokered by the United States ratified the independence of Slovenia and Croatia and the de facto partition of Bosnia. In the intervening years a brutal war of “ethnic cleansing” was waged by Bosnian-Serbian forces against the Muslim population of Bosnia. Towns and villages were depopulated and destroyed; mosques and cultural institutions were systematically pillaged and razed; a policy of mass rape was practised against Muslim women; a network of concentration camps was set up throughout those parts of Bosnia captured by Bosnian-Serb forces; and a campaign of terror and mass murder—a campaign of genocide—was undertaken against the Muslim population. It complicates the picture, but in no way mitigates the horror or minimizes the enormous responsibility of Milosevic and his Bosnian-Serbian allies, to point out that the Croatian dictator Franjo Tudjman also organized a reign of terror, albeit on a smaller scale. Many people of all “ethnic” identifications suffered, as did many more who lacked a clear ethnic identification altogether. But none suffered more than the Bosnian Muslims, who were “cleansed” by Serbs, harassed by Croats, and helped by no one. While the Dayton Accords brought an official end to these atrocities, the “peace” that has been established is an uncertain one. Fear and resentment persist. Injustice goes unpunished. Paramilitary militias remain armed. The Bosnian Serbs remain in control of much of the territory and the property that they conquered and forcibly expropriated. And their leaders—Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic, and numerous others—remain utterly unpunished and at liberty in spite of the fact that they have been indicted as “war criminals.” These facts are beyond question9.

11But the questions we must raise are in regard to their meaning: What do they signify? What lessons can we draw from them? What are their implications for thinking about democratic politics or about politics in general? There is, of course, no single or easy answer to these questions. Indeed, these are matters about which commentators are sure to argue for years to come as events continue to unfold. Yet I think some tentative answers are possible.

  • 10 Fukuyama, “Primacy of Culture”, 10.

12The most important point to make about events in Bosnia is that there is no reason to consider them as aberrations. Francis Fukuyama recently contended that such events are entirely “marginal” and in no way signify that liberal democracy has “plausible ideological competitors”. As he writes: “more extreme nationalist states like Serbia that violate fundamental liberal principles of tolerance have not fared well. Because populations are not homogeneous, their emphasis on ethnic purity leads them to conflict, war, and destruction of the economic basis of modern power. It is thus not surprising that Serbia has failed to become a model society for anyone in Europe, East or West...Although ethnic conflict is a severe threat to democracy in the short run, there are a number of reasons for thinking that it will be a transitional phenomenon10.”

13This is a strange remark. The description of Serbia as “intolerant”— rather than, say, brutally repressive or genocidal—is a striking understatement. And what does it mean to say that ethnonationalist ideology does not represent a “plausible” ideological competitor of liberalism? A great deal hinges on the meaning of the term “plausible”. For Serbian nationalist ideology surely has fared quite well in achieving its objectives. Bosnian Serbs control Bosnian territory. Milosevic continues to rule Yugoslavia with an iron hand. As I write, Serbian police, paramilitary and military units continue to oppress, brutalize, displace, and kill hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, all the while thumbing their noses at the demands of the United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the United States for a cessation of the violence. Serbia may not have become a spiritual model for the West, but it is nonetheless the case that the West has demonstrated little difficulty accepting, indeed de facto ratifying, its violation of “fundamental liberal principles”. It is hard, then, to view Serbian aggression as “marginal” or “temporary”. In any case, what proves to be “temporary” can be nonetheless utterly serious and indeed deadly, as was witnessed during the Thousand-Year Reich, which lasted roughly twelve years. So I would suggest that “Bosnia” is more serious than Fukuyama’s comment—a comment that nicely mirrors western complacency—implies.

14Many meanings can be attributed to the destructive and violent scenario still being enacted in Bosnia and even more violently in Kosovo. Among them four stand out. And contrary to Fukuyama, they implicate some general and disturbing realities that those serious about democracy cannot afford to gloss over.

  • 11 See Susan Woodward, Balkan Tragedy: Chaos and Dissolution after the Cold War (Washington, D.C.: Br (...)
  • 12 Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Pandaemonium: Ethnicity in International Politics (New York: Oxford Unive (...)
  • 13 Especially notable is the genocide in Rwanda. See Robert Block, “Tragedy of Rwanda”, New York Revi (...)

151. First, the Bosnian debacle can be seen as a symptom of a broader crisis in international relations in a postcolonial and postcommunist age, a “foreign policy” crisis of tremendous proportions that tests the resources of liberal democratic states and their strategies of promoting a more organized and “liberal” world order11. The downfall of communism in Europe has let loose what Daniel Patrick Moynihan has called a pandaemonium of destructive forces, of which the Bosnian civil war is only one example12. While this crisis has not occupied center stage of either western media attention or political science scholarship, similar ethno-nationalist conflicts have broken out throughout the ex-communist world—in Nagorno-Karabakh, Kosovo, Georgia, the Crimea, and in Chechnya, a human rights disaster of the first order that seems, like most things, to have faded quickly from public view into the oblivion that is historical memory in our time. But such hostilities are not limited to the ex-communist sphere. Similar conflicts are unfolding in Turkey and Iraq (and, though better repressed, in Syria and Iran), where Kurds are struggling for independence, a struggle that has recently made its appearance in the very heart of Europe; in Afghanistan; in Palestine; and throughout Africa13.

  • 14 For similar arguments, see Ken Jowitt, “Dizzy With Democracy”, Problems of Post-Communism (January (...)
  • 15 Tony Judt offers a cogent critique of this third-worldism in his Past Imperfect: French Intellectu (...)

16What has any of this to do with democracy? Aren’t these events taking place in the nondemocratic parts of the world? Don’t they testify to the value of and the need for democracy? Perhaps they do, but they also testify, contra Fukuyama, to how marginal democracy is in our world today14. Since the end of the eighteenth century, western humanists have envisioned a world of ever increasing cosmopolitanism, humanitarian-ism, legality, and self-government. And yet at the dawn of the next century, we confront a world that gives the lie to these expectations. More than thirty years have passed since Jean-Paul Sartre, in his notorious preface to Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, wrote of the “inhumanity” of this European humanism, “stained with blood”. But Sartre credulously wrote in the name of a more “authentic” humanism, a humanism of oppressed peoples—Third World peoples and national minorities—who would rise up against European neocolonialism and free themselves from oppression, who would make real the humanist impulses which are only given lip service by western imperialism15. We now know that this “humanism” was no more plausible than the one it so sneeringly disparaged.

  • 16 Robert D. Kaplan, The Ends of the Earth: A Journey at the Dawn of the Twenty-First Century (New Yo (...)

17The postcolonial and postcommunist world is a world of tremendous violence and profound chaos, destruction, and despair. As the journalist Robert D. Kaplan reports in his powerful The Ends of The Earth: A Journey at the Dawn of the 21st Century, the vast majority of the world’s population today live amidst relentless disease, environmental devastation, soil degradation, population explosion, and grinding poverty and is subjected to ever present violence and political perdition16. It is of course important not to overgeneralize. Each situation is unique. Each political crisis presents its own possibilities. Bosnia is not Burundi; is not Burma. And yet, in different ways, each of these places is beset by intractable problems thrown up by a postcolonial world. They testify to the disorder of this world and to its recalcitrance toward democratic values and democratic political forms. The point is not that western liberal democracies are complicit in these problems, though they are complicit by virtue of their economic and diplomatic ties and their significant role as arms suppliers, a factor that deserves much more attention than it receives. It is that, at the very least, the “Bosnias” of the world defy democratic expectations and stand as a severe reproach to them. In the long run, these reproaches may pass from the scene, though it is surely more likely that they will not; but in the long run, as Keynes famously quipped, we are in any case all dead.

182. But “Bosnia” symbolizes more than a kind of moral or spiritual reproach to democracy, as a barrier beyond which democracy seems unable to pass. For if one feature of the world in which we live is the ever-presence of suffering, displacement, and violence, another is the utter porosity of the borders, literal and figurative, that keep these problems “there” rather than “here”. In this deeper sense “Bosnia” can be viewed as the “future” of democracy in those very places where it seems to flourish. For the dynamic of persecution and dispossession is not, and cannot be, safely quarantined “over there”. It is here, within our societies and within ourselves. What do I mean by this?

  • 17 For the most recent (1997) data, see the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees web site at (...)

19First, that Bosnia is here, within liberal democracy, because the Bosnians themselves are here. The world is currently experiencing a refugee crisis of truly “global” proportions. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, in 1997 alone twelve million people—more than thirty-two thousand people every day—were forced to leave their countries for fear of persecution and violence. This is a conservative estimate. It does not include those millions who were forced to leave their countries under exigencies that do not “officially” qualify as politically violent. And it does not include the more than ten million others displaced within the borders of their own countries. According to a recent United Nations survey, “roughly one in every 130 people on earth has been forced into flight17.” This is an incredible statistic.

  • 18 See, for example, Jürgen Habermas, “Citizenship and National Identity: Some Reflections on the Fut (...)

20Where do these people go when they are forced to leave their homes, those places in which, however tenuously, they have long resided and labored? They go elsewhere, abroad. They leave “there,” wherever “there” is, and come “here”. The Bosnian “ethnic cleansing” alone displaced two million people. Many wound up in concentration camps. Some found refuge in Slovenia, or Croatia, or even in Belgrade. Hundreds of thousands made their way to Western Europe, to democratic societies like Austria, Germany, Italy, or Switzerland. They became refugees in the heart of “civilized” Europe, resident aliens of liberal democratic nation-states. In this regard they share the fate of millions of others—Arabs, Africans, Asians, Latin Americans, Mexicans, and Turks—ethnic minorities who have changed the demographics of western liberal democracies and introduced a series of challenges vaguely registered by the concept of “multiculturalism”. The challenges are immense. To what extent should these ethnic peoples be allowed, and to what extent refused, entry into western liberal democratic countries? To what extent should their cultures be assimilated; to what extent granted legal recognition? To what extent are they entitled to the forms of welfare benefits provided for citizens? To what extent are they, as subjects of the law and in many cases residents and productive members of the economy for generations, entitled to the full rights of citizenship itself? There are no easy answers to these questions, nor is there any reason to think that such questions can be answered a single way at all times and in all places, but if liberal democracy is to remain a viable form of government anywhere, it will increasingly be compelled to answer them and to do so in ways that remain true to core liberal democratic values of equal respect and political fairness18. Liberal democratic regimes have not, until now, proven themselves up to this task, a failure that is only likely to become magnified with the passage of time and the further straining of civic resources. “Bosnia” is here, then, in the sense that the problems of the rest of the world present themselves to liberal democracies not simply as problems of “foreign” but of “domestic” policy, as problems of managing conflict and constituting political identity in an increasingly pluralistic and increasingly fractious world.

  • 19 Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Civil Wars: From L.A. to Bosnia (New York: New Press, 1994).
  • 20 See Michael Walzer, “Multiculturalism and Individualism”, Dissent 41 (Spring 1994): 185-91; and Wi (...)

21But if Bosnia is present in liberal democracy as a challenge of multiculturalism, it is also present in another, more insidious sense—as a spirit of ethnonationalist exclusionism and political resentment that is becoming increasingly prevalent in liberal democratic societies. We do not have to go all the way with Hans Magnus Enzensberger’s Civil Wars to recognize that public life in what used to be called “the West” has become increasingly acrimonious and that the kind of arrogance, meanness, and cruelty characteristic of the Bosnian genocide has become, in much smaller doses to be sure, a staple of the civic culture of liberal democracy19. The impressive electoral showings of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front in France are just one example of this; the significant growth of neofascist or neo-Nazi movements and parties in Austria, Eastern Germany, and Italy is another. The anti-immigrant sentiment that has spread throughout Western Europe and the United States is a sign of pervasive insecurity and fear on the part of “native” populations who are experiencing the effects of economic dislocation and fiscal austerity and who jealously guard the national patrimony through which they can vicariously derive a sense of security and belonging20. The emergence of right-wing populist movements that play upon ethnic and racial divisions to constitute—and enforce—an antiliberal vision of homogeneous communities represents a significant challenge to liberal democracy that has assumed increasing prominence on the political landscape. Equally significant are the uprisings of aggrieved minorities that increasingly dot the political landscape, from African-Americans in Los Angeles and St. Petersburg to Algerians in Paris, to Turks in Berlin. Responding to economic inequality and cultural marginality, these groups often project their own forms of fundamentalism that are no less hostile to the normal workings of liberal democracy.

  • 21 Julia Kristeva, Strangers to Ourselves (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), 1. See also Kw (...)

22Here we can think of “Bosnia” being present among us in an even deeper ethical, and perhaps metaphysical sense: as the challenge of otherness in general that has exploded onto the political arena in recent years. “Multiculturalism”, after all, is not simply about the toleration or public recognition of ethnic, racial, or national groups. It is about a complex set of ways in which political identities are currently being contested, about the veritable explosion of a cultural politics centered around identity that has taken place since the 1960s. The problem of Bosnians among us is a problem of dealing with (literal) “strangers” and of dealing with the hostility that these strangers bring out in society; it is also a problem of how to deal with and to process strangeness itself, how to envision and to regulate the contestation of gender identity, sexual identity, racial identity, the human relationship to the nonhuman world (”ecology”), and, indeed, how to deal with the complex identities, and conflicts that reside in the soul of each individual human being. As Julia Kristeva puts it: “Strangely, the foreigner lives within us: he is the hidden face of our identity, the space that wrecks our abode, the time in which understanding and affinity founder. By recognizing him within ourselves, we are spared detesting him in himself. A symptom that precisely turns ‘we’ into a problem, perhaps makes it impossible. The foreigner comes in when the consciousness of my difference arises, and he disappears when we all acknowledge ourselves as foreigners, unamenable to bonds and communities21.”

23Bosnia,” then, is also a sign of the complexity of both the social and political world and the inner world of the individual, and of the need for liberal democratic citizens to generate the ethical and political resources to grapple with this world in all of its complexity. Here, too, their performance at present leaves little cause for optimism.

  • 22 Maas reports a striking conversation with a traumatized, highly educated, and urbane Bosnian Musli (...)

243. This leads me to a third meaning of Bosnia, as a sign of a moral crisis of humanism itself. By insisting that Bosnia is a sign of moral crisis, I mean that the very fact that the genocide could be carried out constitutes an instance of egregious ethical irresponsibility and that the abdication, if not complicity, of the rest of the world—especially the so-called advanced and “civilized” world—in the face of so glaring an atrocity symbolizes an even more profound failure of ethical responsibility in our time. The Bosnian debacle took place for four years within our very midst. It took place before our very eyes, as the bloodshed and displacement was broadcast nightly and indeed virtually instantaneously on CNN to every corner of the globe22. We citizens of advanced liberal democracies knew that it was happening. And yet we—and the agencies of intellectual enlightenment and political empowerment that supposedly represent us—did virtually nothing to prevent it from happening or to stop it once it began. This is what David Rieff means when he writes about the “failure of the West”: a failure to name the genocide as genocide, and a failure to act on the refrain of “never again” that has so frequently been invoked in the wake of the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis a little over a half-century ago.

  • 23 See Stjepan G. Mestrovic, The Balkanization of the West: The Confluence of Postmodernism and Postc (...)

25Like the events in Bosnia themselves, this failure is an accomplished fact. What does it mean to call it a profound crisis of ethical responsibility? Ethical responsibility is a complicated thing, something that philosophers, novelists, and poets have wrestled with for centuries. Suffice it to say that it has long been a presumption of our modern, “enlightened” societies that a certain conception of ethical responsibility is enabled by the institutions of liberal democratic self-government: that to be responsible is to be able to perceive what is going on around you, to make certain judgments about the rights and wrongs in which you are implicated, and to be capable of taking some kind of action within the limits of your power to restrain wrong and to abet right. It has long been believed that liberal democracy is uniquely hospitable to such ethical responsibility because of its freedom of expression, its freedom of the press, its forms of universal public education, its independent judiciary, and its system of responsible and deliberative self-government. And yet “Bosnia” puts the lie to such beliefs. Of course these events are not the first lime the lie has been put to them. Indeed, in many ways the history of twentieth century politics can be viewed as an extended narrative about the failure of these benign expectations in the face of violence and injustice. And yet “Bosnia” is significant—and striking—precisely because it has taken place in the heart of Europe, fifty years after our supposed moral luminaries asserted “never again”, and in the very midst of a veritable euphoria about the defeat of communism and the triumph of a liberal “new world order” in which democracy was ordained to flourish23.

  • 24 This is the point of Jean Baudrillard’s essays “No Pity for Sarajevo”, “The West’s Serbianization” (...)

26The fact that this could occur is partly due to the failure of nerve of political leaders reluctant to offend diplomatic protagonists or to inflame popular passions by calling genocide by its name. It is partly due to the failure of the mass media to educate and to outrage. Indeed, the freedom of expression long ago hailed by Jefferson and his peers as a guarantee of civic virtue proved itself in practice to promote mass confusion and cynicism24. “Bosnia” signals a failure of organized political response and of civic responsibility, but at an even deeper level it can be argued that it signals a striking evacuation of responsibility altogether, of the increasing prevalence of a callow indifference among citizens of the “free world” that simply masks itself as an exercise of freedom.

27As a victim of Soviet persecution, the Nobel prize-winning poet Joseph Brodsky penned a poem called “The Berlin Wall Tune” to call attention to the oppressions and hypocrisies of communism. How ironic, then, that, but three years after the demise of communism, he would be moved to write a sequel, “Bosnia Tune”, to call attention to the ethical debility of “freedom” itself. His words are apposite.

As you pour yourself a scotch
crush a roach, or check your watch
as your hand adjusts your tie
people die.

In the towns with funny names,
hit by bullets, caught in flames,
by and large not knowing why people die.

In small places you don’t know of,
yet big for having no
chance to scream or say good-bye
people die.

People die as you elect,
new apostles of neglect
self-restraint, etc.—whereby
people die.

Too far off to practice love
for thy neighbor/brother Slav,
where your cherubs dread to fly,
people die.

While the statutes disagree
Cain’s version, history
for its fuel tends to burn
those who die.

As you watch the athletes score,
check your latest statement, or
sing your child a lullaby,
people die.

  • 25 Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc., on behalf of the Estate of Joseph Brodsk (...)

Time, whose sharp blood-thirsty quill
parts the killed from those who kill,
will pronounce the latter tribe
as your type.25

28Brodsky’s poem brilliantly captures the incredible, shocking juxtaposition of political murder “there” and absorption in the “commerce” of daily life “here”. It also sharpens the sense that there are no “here” and “there”, that we inhabit a single ethical universe, that the suffering “they” (and their killers) are “here”, too, on our television screens, at our borders, and on our streets, firmly within reach, and yet we choose to ignore them. It is widely reported that accident victims who lose a limb will long after the event experience the limb as if it existed. Brodsky’s poem seeks to induce in us a similar effect, of becoming palpably aware of something—ethical responsibility—by heightening the experience of its utter absence.

  • 26 See Judith Shklar, Faces of Injustice (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990).

294. This ethical failure, as I have insisted, is an accomplished fact, and so—even more importantly—are the injustices that have been committed in part as a result of such failure. This leads me to the final significance of “Bosnia”: what I will call, speaking loosely, the irre-mediability of injustice that it instantiates. Political theory is not only about justice. It is also about injustice, about identifying injustice and of remedying it, of righting (as far as possible) the wrongs that have been done. Just as the liberal democratic nation-state has long been considered a form of government uniquely suited to regulating problems of conflict and to fostering an ethos of respect and responsibility, it has also been considered a way of enacting and enforcing legality so as to be responsive to the claims of those who have been wronged26. That “Bosnia” is the site of horrifying wrong is beyond doubt. And yet in what ways are the victims of this wrong being compensated? Who is responsible for such remediation? Who is empowered to enforce it? Is such remediation even possible?

  • 27 See Lawrence Weschler, “Enabling Washington: The Coming Crunch in the Hague”, New Yorker (6 Decemb (...)

30“Bosnia” is a symbol of mass persecutio, violence and widespread destruction. It is also the symbol of the profound difficulty—indeed, I would suggest, the impossibility—of compensation. There is no remedy for the losses. There is obviously no chance of bringing back the dead. But it seems equally impossible to restore the property of the dispossessed or to restore the dignity and confidence of those who have been terrorized, raped, and incarcerated. And it appears that there is little political will to enforce any kind of justice for those most politically responsible for organizing and perpetrating such violence27. To the extent that this is true, it is not simply the past that is poisoned, but the future as well, for those who have suffered, but also, I would submit, for those who stood by and continue to stand by, doing nothing to assist them, incapable of offering rescue or remedy. In his famous “Theses on the Philosophy of History”, Walter Benjamin described “the angel of history” thus:

  • 28 Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History”, in Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt (New Y (...)

“His eyes are staring, his mouth open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling up wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got hold of his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress28.”

  • 29 Two notable exceptions are Jowitt, New World Disorder, and Vladimir Tismaneanu, Fantasies of Salva (...)

31Such a grim picture is, of course, one-sided; wreckage is surely not all that our recent history has wrought. But wreckage is an absolutely critical part of the story of our contemporary history, a part that most political scientists and political theorists writing about democracy attend to all too little29. The most powerful image in Benjamin’s famous parable is the image of a world irremediably torn, one which cannot be made whole or restored to some balance or justice. “Bosnia” symbolizes this problem. It symbolizes it juridically, as an instance of the incapacity of legal authorities to bring the perpetrators of violence to justice, an inability that only continues to fuel a cycle of fear, resentment, and hatred towards all possible violators. It symbolizes it politically, by virtue of the incessant waves of refugees it produces, continually uprooting peoples and taxing the fiscal and civic resources of liberal democratic states. And it symbolizes it ethically, as an expression of profound civic cynicism that helps to reinforce the growing sense that meaningful public action on behalf of justice or solidarity is impossible.

The Future of Democracy

32Serious political analysts should avoid the temptation to overgeneralize about the future of democracy. If the record of history tells us anything, it is that democratic ideas have extraordinary staying power and can take many shapes. And yet it also tells us that these ideas don’t travel on their own but require carriers, vehicles, agents, and also that they usually travel in hostile territory.

33In our time democracy has principally taken a liberal and capitalist shape and has been carried by an assortment of agents that includes democratically oriented political elites and parties; global financial institutions (sometimes) like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank; geopolitical powers like the United States, the European Union, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; and also a range of civic initiatives, trade unions, universities, philanthropic foundations, and voluntary associations that comprise what is sometimes called a global or cosmopolitan “civil society”. It is important to acknowledge the success of this unstable coalition of forces in advancing democratic politics in parts of Central Europe and the Baltic states and in other parts of the world, from Argentina to South Africa. Insofar as liberal democracy has experienced these successes, then, of course, what 1 have called “Bosnia” in this paper is not the whole story. Or, as I put it above, 1989 has its bright side.

34Yet the dark side is no less dark for this. There is reason to be concerned about the future of democracy in those places where the very idea of it is revolutionary, in those places where it recently has made its appearance, and even in those places where it has long rested securely (at least as long as 1945). New forms of globalization produce massive economic disruption, unemployment and underemployment, and the devaluation of labor. New forms of communication and mass media promote the banalization of public discourse and a growing sense that nothing is truly real and nothing truly matters. The relentless technological imperatives of capitalist “creative destruction” produce ecological devastation and increasing risk. Economic dislocation and political persecution engender pervasive ethnonational conflict and extraordinary global refugee flows. Each of these processes is severe; together they constitute an explosive mixture, a potent source of political resentment, and a serious challenge to liberal democratic values and governance.

35The conventional institutions of mass democratic politics in the modern world—mass suffrage, parliaments, parties, the free press—have by no means outlived their usefulness. Indeed, they are indispensable to any meaningful conception of a free society. But in many ways these institutions are inadequate to the problems of the next millennium that I have taken “Bosnia” to symbolize. Democratic politics in the next century cannot dispense with conventional liberal democratic institutions. But if it is to generate civic confidence, to foster new forms of inclusion and recognition, and to promote solidarity and effective action across borders, then new institutions are needed as well: institutions that do not correspond neatly with conventional nation-state centered forms of mass participation, either because they constrain states in new ways or because they connect citizens and constitute new identities globally. What are these institutions?

  1. Regional and federal structures designed to generate economic growth, collective security, and human rights. In Europe the most important of these is clearly the European Community and its adjuncts, the European Parliament and the Council on Security and Cooperation in Europe. These institutions are important because they embody, at least in principle, a more universalistic ethos, thus countering existing tendencies toward economic marginalization and ethnic exclusion. In addition, such institutions are important because they seem mandated, so to speak, by the new forms of economic globalization that defy the borders of sovereign nation-states. Such institutions are by no means intrinsically democratic. Like the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, they often institutionalize a regime of depressed wages and promote significant economic inequalities and environmental degradation. For this reason democrats should not uncritically embrace such institutions. Yet they have the potential at least to promote democratic values and transnational cooperation—particularly when pressured from below to do so—and they are, in any case, emerging amidst globalization whether we like them or not. Democratic theorists and democratic citizens thus have no choice but to attend to them, to critically analyze their functioning, and to envision new and more democratic ways in which they might function30.
  2. Global institutions, such as the United Nations, but also judicial bodies like the Hague, the International Criminal Tribunals established for the Bosnian and Rwandan genocides, the recently proposed International Criminal Court, and conventions such as recent agreements to ban land mines and child labor. Here too, such institutions are not necessarily democratic in either their structure or their consequence, though ideally they represent responses to democratically mobilized pressure on behalf of human security and dignity. But in principle they seek to promote human rights and civic pluralism, and they represent forms of cross-border cooperation that address some of the more egregious forms of suffering and injustice in our world in a way that liberal democratic nation-states are neither set up nor predisposed to do. For this reason such institutions must be at the heart of the democratic agenda of the twenty-first century. The challenge for political scientists is to investigate how such institutions function and how they might be redesigned to better promote human rights, civic solidarity, and democratic legitimacy in an age in which nation sovereignty is in many ways an anachronism.
  3. New forms of institutionalized public discourse, such as the “truth commissions” that have become such an important part of democratic transitions in Central Europe, Cambodia, Latin America, and South Africa. Such commissions serve many functions—investigatory, quasi judicial, pedagogical, and political—and as such they necessarily embody tensions and present ethical, legal, and institutional difficulties31. Yet it is clear that such commissions represent an important institutional innovation of the late twentieth century that seeks to abet democratic transition through a civil process of public testimony and discussion. Distinctive features of these institutions, relating to the recollection of a violent recent past and the attribution of responsibility (and forgiveness) for such violence, make them particularly relevant for transitional societies emerging from authoritarianism and civil war—in other words, for most societies on the face of the earth. But in broader terms such commissions pioneer new forms of organized public discourse of relevance to established liberal democracies as well. Here I have in mind such things as citizen advisory boards, which have played a central role in the implementation of environmental policy in the United States; citizen round tables like the ones that emerged in the East German democratic opposition to communism, but continued to function—particularly in the East—after German reunification, promoting public discussion of environmental policy, immigrant policy, the treatment of strangers or “foreigners”, and even economic development policy; and other ways of promoting a more “deliberative democracy”, from town meetings to meditative polls. Such institutions, whether organized by the state, by philanthropic foundations, or less formally by citizens, cannot substitute the conventional institutions of liberal democratic suffrage, bargaining, and political representation. But they are indispensable adjuncts to and complements to these conventional institutions, and they help to compensate for the legitimacy deficits currently experienced by liberal democratic states32. If there is a conventional wisdom these days among democratic theorists, it is that deliberation is a much-needed dimension of democratic politics that is currently in short supply. Much of this literature is merely exhortative, but among political philosophers and political scientists, there is a growing awareness that deliberation cannot be considered independently of the distribution of power and the organization of political institutions. Institutional innovation in this domain is thus a central item on the agenda of democratic politics in the next century.
  4. Finally, there are the various initiatives and associations comprising what has come to be seen as an increasingly global civil society, such as Medecins sans Frontières, Amnesty International, Global Exchange, Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines, Greenpeace, Oxfam International, and numerous others. Groups such as these have in many ways revolutionized world politics by vigorously promoting a new consciousness of human rights and global responsibility33. In so doing, they have drawn upon the ethos—and the organizational forms—of the democratic oppositions to communism in Eastern Europe, as well as upon the western “new left” and peace movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Yet there is a danger here of over-generalizing about such groups and of exaggerating both their democratic character and their beneficial effects. “Civil society” has in many circles become a buzz word or slogan rather than a serious analytical category, deployed loosely to designate anything “nonstatist” as civic, communitarian, voluntary, and thus good. The fact is, if civil society is taken to comprise the associational sphere of social life situated between markets and states, then civil society is the site of both liberal and democratic activities and antiliberal and undemocratic ones. Civil society is distinguished by its plurality rather than by any particular political principles or convictions. It is not an agent or a collectivity but a space within which democratic political contestation can occur.
  • 34 See Jeffrey Isaac, “Reclaiming the Wasteland: Thinking About Land Mines and their Eradication”, Di (...)

36The groups mentioned above— Medecins sans Frontières, et cetera— are distinctive, and I would argue distinctively democratic, in the following ways: they are collaborative, associational activities animated by a sense of conviction about the importance of universal values; they are grass roots and improvisational efforts in which people “on the ground” create their own power through their own concerted activity and reach out beyond themselves to others differently situated yet bound by common interests; they represent efforts to respond to injuries, or effect change, or deliver assistance, that resist antidemocratic forces, whether these be authoritarian states, guerilla or paramilitary armies or warlords, or transnational corporations.34 To say that such groupings are democratic is not to attribute to them converging tendencies or an overarching common project. While they have formal similarities and ethical affinities, such groupings are also usually distinguished by their partiality and by a certain improvisational style that resists incorporation into a broader unity.

  • 35 David Rieff, “The False Dawn of Civil Society”, The Nation (22 February 1999), 11, 14.

37Further, even these kinds of efforts—which by no means exhaust civil society, which also includes skinhead movements, paramilitary groups, and staunch economic libertarians opposed to any kind of public assistance whatsoever—are not without their limitations. David Rieff emphasizes this in his recent essay “The False Dawn of Civil Society”, contending that “when we put our faith in civil society, we are grasping at straws”. The discourse of civil society, Rieff claims, promotes a romantic, self-righteous antipolitics that reflects the hegemony of neo-liberalism rather than any kind of democratic aspirations or values. “What has been misplaced,” Rieff argues, “is the belief that a network of associations could accomplish what states could not...the suggestion that civil society can cope where nations have failed is, in fact, a counsel of despair35...” Rieff details the limitations of civil society associations: they are improvisational and weak; they rely on private philanthropic support and typically lack broad public or state funding; they are unaccountable to the broader democratic public; they are dwarfed by the problems of oppression, violence, and inequality against which they set themselves.

38Rieff is correct on each score. Civil society associations like Medecins sans Frontières or Global Exchange are severely limited. Their remedial activity cannot substitute for remedial state action, and their civic agency cannot substitute for the democratic legitimacy that can be conferred upon states through the conventional liberal democratic process. But Rieff is incorrect to imply that such associations present themselves as substitutes for conventional democratic state action. Civil society politics is important today not because of a naïve Iibertarianism or because of a willful faith in voluntary activity, but because in many instances states either cannot or will not do the things that need doing, and because in other instances state activity is itself predatory and noxious. Civil society politics is central to the democratic politics of the next century because such a politics is necessary in the face of the failings of liberal democracy and national sovereignty in a truly global age. Such a politics is limited, but it is also powerful insofar as it seeks to promote civic participation, civic pluralism and human right, and to challenge chauvinism and inequality. But such a politics does not work in a vacuum, and it can succeed, even partly, only to the extent that it can exert pressure upon nation-states and their domestic and foreign policies and also work to shape the other forms of transnational political responsibility outlined above. Nongovernmental organizations have a crucial role to play not simply in constituting their own forms of community and activity but in making sure that institutions like the United Nations, European Union, and World Trade Organization are accountable, that they are responsive to pressing needs, that they in fact pursue policies hospitable to peace, civility, and human rights. To this extent, the kinds of democratic practices I have briefly sketched are not independent of one another. Rather, they represent complementary efforts to respond to the public problems of our time.

  • 36 See François Furet, “Europe After Utopianism”, Journal of Democracy 6:1 (January 1995), 79-89; and (...)
  • 37 Habermas, “Learning By Disaster?”

39What, then, is the meaning of 1989 for the future of democracy? There is no single meaning. “1989” signifies the power of ideals and idealism, but also the power of cynicism and the cynicism of power. If it is possible to derive a grandiose lesson from 1989, it is not the end of ideology or the end of history, but it is perhaps the end of utopianism. Democrats can no longer place any faith in either the Utopia of communist classlessness or the Utopia of beneficent, progressive liberalism36. Communism surely was not the riddle of history solved, but neither is liberal, capitalist democracy. Jürgen Habermas titled a recent essay on the next century “Learning By Disaster? A Diagnostic Look Back on the Short Twentieth Century”. In it he observes that “phenomena of violence and barbarism define the signature of the age”, but he also maintains, against a relentless negativism that he associates with thinkers from Adorno to Baudrillard, that we have learned something from the disasters of the century37. The legitimacy of liberal democracy is one thing we have learned. The development of a global sense of responsibility is another. The question, he asks, is if a “cosmopolitan solidarity” is likely to become empowered and institutionalized.

40This is the question I have been posing in this paper as well. The jury is not yet in on this question, and because it is not yet in, it is important for intellectuals, scholars, and citizens to be creative, indeed visionary, at the same time that they remain painfully attentive to the barbarisms of our world. Habermas’s title is telling. For it is not from the accumulation of benign experiences that we have learned; it is from the repeated experience of disaster. Power, and not limit, has been the watchword of democratic thought in the modern world. But if the experience of the twentieth century has taught us anything, it has taught that vulnerability is as central to the human condition as is power, and indeed that human power creates new and more frightening forms of vulnerability. What we learn in the present and the future is thus not likely to usher in an age of freedom or prosperity or solidarity or all that is good. If we are lucky, though, it may help us limit or control the damage that we humans are so adept at producing. Such a rationale for democratic innovation hardly comports with the idealism so often associated by democrats with political change. But it may be the rationale most appropriate for the trying times in which we live.


1 The author wishes to thank the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the Open Society Institute for their support.

2 Jürgen Habermas, “What Does Socialism Mean Today? The Revolutions of Recuperation and the Need for New Thinking”, New Left Review 183 (September-October 1990). See also Ralf Dahrendorf, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe (New York: Random House, 1990); and Bruce Ackerman, Future of Liberal Revolution (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992).

3 Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?” National Interest 16 (Summer 1989

4 Samuel P. Huntington, “No Exit: The Errors of Endism”, National Interest 17 (Fall 1989). See also Jean-François Revel, “But We Follow the Worse...”, National Interest 17 (Winter 1989-99).

5 See Francis Fukuyama, “The Primacy of Culture”, Journal of Democracy 6:1 (January 1995); Francis Fukuyama, Trust (New York: Free Press, 1995); Charles Meier, “Democracy and its Discontents”, Foreign Affairs 73 (July/August 1994): 48¬67; Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., “Has Democracy a Future?” Foreign Affairs (September/October 1997); and Thomas Carothers, “Democracy Without Illusions”, Foreign Affairs (January/February 1997): 85-99.

6 See Jacques Rupnik, “Postcommunist Divide”, Journal of Democracy 10:1 (January 1999): 57-62.

7 See Tony Judt, Burden of Responsibility: Blum, Camus, Aron and the French Twentieth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998).

8 David Rieff, Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1995), 22.

9 In addition to Rieff, Slaughterhouse, see the following: Roy Gutman, Witness to Genocide (New York: MacMillan, 1993); Peter Maas, Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War (New York: Knopf, 1996); Alexandra Stiglmayer, ed., Mass Rape: The War Against Women in Bosnia-Herzegovina (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994); Michael A. Sells, The Bridge Betrayed: Religion and Genocide in Bosnia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996); and Warren Zimmerman, “The Last Ambassador: A Memoir of the Collapse of Yugoslavia”, Foreign Affairs 74 (March/April 1995): 2-20.

10 Fukuyama, “Primacy of Culture”, 10.

11 See Susan Woodward, Balkan Tragedy: Chaos and Dissolution after the Cold War (Washington, D.C.: Brookings, 1996); Ken Jowitt, New World Disorder: The Leninist Extinction (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992); and Bogdan Denitch, After the Flood: World Politics and Democracy in the Wake of Communism (Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 1992).

12 Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Pandaemonium: Ethnicity in International Politics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).

13 Especially notable is the genocide in Rwanda. See Robert Block, “Tragedy of Rwanda”, New York Review of Books (20 October 1994): 3-8; Gerard Prunier, The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995); David Rieff, “An Age of Genocide: The Far-Reaching Lessons of Rwanda”, New Republic (29 January 1996): 27-36; and Philip Gourevitch, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998).

14 For similar arguments, see Ken Jowitt, “Dizzy With Democracy”, Problems of Post-Communism (January/February 1996): 3-8; and Charles Gati, “The Mirage of Democracy”, Transition (22 March 1996): 6-13.

15 Tony Judt offers a cogent critique of this third-worldism in his Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals, 1944-1956 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992

16 Robert D. Kaplan, The Ends of the Earth: A Journey at the Dawn of the Twenty-First Century (New York: Random House, 1996).

17 For the most recent (1997) data, see the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees web site at For the quotation, see United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, The State of the World’s Refugees: The Challenge of Protection (New York: Penguin, 1993

18 See, for example, Jürgen Habermas, “Citizenship and National Identity: Some Reflections on the Future of Europe”, Praxis International 12:1 (April 1992): 1-19; Jurgen Habermas, “Learning by Disaster? A Diagnostic Look Back on the Short 20th Century”, Constellations 5:3 (1998): 307-20. See also Tony Judt, “The Social Question Redivivus”, Foreign Affairs 76:5 (September/October 1997): 95-117.

19 Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Civil Wars: From L.A. to Bosnia (New York: New Press, 1994).

20 See Michael Walzer, “Multiculturalism and Individualism”, Dissent 41 (Spring 1994): 185-91; and William E. Connolly, Identity/Difference: Democratic Negotiations of Political Paradox (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991).

21 Julia Kristeva, Strangers to Ourselves (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), 1. See also Kwame Anthony Appiah, In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).

22 Maas reports a striking conversation with a traumatized, highly educated, and urbane Bosnian Muslim, who declared in desperation: “We are in the center of mass crimes, pogroms, and genocide. We didn’t believe this would happen. This is the twentieth century. We are in Europe. We have satellite television here. Even today, when there is electricity, we can watch CNN. We can watch reports about our own genocide!” Maas, Love Thy Neighbor, 75-76

23 See Stjepan G. Mestrovic, The Balkanization of the West: The Confluence of Postmodernism and Postcommunism (New York: Routledge, 1994); and the superb essays collected in Thomas Cushman and Stjepan G. Mestrovic, eds., This Time We Knew: Western Responses to Genocide in Bosnia (New York: New York University 1996). The failure of memory involved here is also discussed in Alain Finkielkraut, Remembering in Vain: The Klaus Barbie Trial and Crimes Against Humanity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992).

24 This is the point of Jean Baudrillard’s essays “No Pity for Sarajevo”, “The West’s Serbianization”, and “When the West Stands in for the Dead”, in Cushman and Mestrovic, eds., This Time We Knew, see also Jean Baudrillard, The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995); and Jean Baudrillard, The Transparency of Evil (London: Verso, 1993).

25 Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc., on behalf of the Estate of Joseph Brodsky: “Bosnia Tune” by Joseph Brodsky. Copyright © 1992 by Joseph Brodsky.

26 See Judith Shklar, Faces of Injustice (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990).

27 See Lawrence Weschler, “Enabling Washington: The Coming Crunch in the Hague”, New Yorker (6 December 1996): 9-10.

28 Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History”, in Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt (New York: Schocken, 1969), 257.

29 Two notable exceptions are Jowitt, New World Disorder, and Vladimir Tismaneanu, Fantasies of Salvation: Democracy, Nationalism, and Myth in Postcommunist Europe (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998).

30 Timothy Garton Ash has argued that the European Community is in danger of forfeiting this political project through its singular commitment to free markets. See his “Europe’s Endangered Liberal Order”, Foreign Affairs 77:2 (March/April 1998): 51-65. In a more theoretical vein, see David Held, “Democracy: From City-States to a Cosmopolitan Order”, in Prospects for Democracy, ed. David Held (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993).

31 On the dangers of confusing judicial and political functions, see Jurgen Habermas, “Working Off the Past” and “Replies to Questions”, in The Berlin Republic: Writings on Germany (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997). On the way these dangers have been navigated in postcommunist Central Europe, see Tina Rosenberg, The Haunted Land: Facing Europe’s Ghosts After Communism (New York: Random House, 1995). On the general theoretical issues at stake, see Martha Minow, Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History after Genocide and Mass Violence (Boston: Beacon Press, 1998).

32 On these points, see Jürgen Habermas, Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996

33 See Michael Ignatieff, The Warrior’s Honor: Ethnic War and the Modern Conscience (New York: Metropolitan Books, 1997).

34 See Jeffrey Isaac, “Reclaiming the Wasteland: Thinking About Land Mines and their Eradication”, Dissent ASA (Fall 1998): 67-72.

35 David Rieff, “The False Dawn of Civil Society”, The Nation (22 February 1999), 11, 14.

36 See François Furet, “Europe After Utopianism”, Journal of Democracy 6:1 (January 1995), 79-89; and Francois Furet, “Democracy and Utopia”, Journal of Democracy 9:1 (January 1998), 65-79.

37 Habermas, “Learning By Disaster?”


Jeffrey C. Isaac is professor of political science at Indiana University, Bloomington and a fellow of the Open Society Institute.

© Central European University Press, 2000

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