Political Science | Political Philosophy
Y675 | 3761 | Craiutu


The most powerful idea of the twentieth century was Communism. The
latter dominated world politics and polarized public opinion to an
unprecedented degree. Far from being the mere product of rhetorical
mobilization, the Cold War was a real conflict between two
antithetical political, social, economic, and cultural systems and
philosophies of life. The demise of communism in 1989 took by
surprise those who believed that communist regimes were stable and
coherent. The aftermath of the 1989 revolution proved to be as great
a challenge to social scientists as was Communism. The course focuses
on the lessons that Western scholars could learn from the fall of
Communism and the current political and economic transformations in
Eastern Europe broadly defined. The emphasis will be on reading the
works of political scientists, economists, and historians. Since the
purpose of the course is to promote genuinely open discussions,
students will be encouraged to reflect critically on a few
controversial topics like the meanings of 1989 revolutions in Eastern
Europe, the relevance of the past, the legacy of Marx, theories of
totalitarianism, the political economy of communism, national
reconciliation, economic reform, nationalism, and constitutionalism.
Each student will be required to write short critical responses to
the readings of each week. Students will also ask to present an
independent project that draws on the readings assigned in class. The
project must show a good command of the key issues in the readings,
and provide a provocative interpretation of the issues under
analysis. Class participation, critical responses, and the individual
project will count each for a third of the final grade.
Required readings include representative selections from Hannah
Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, Stéphane Courtois et al.,
eds. The Black Book of Communism, Harvard, 1999; Vladimir
Shlapentokh, A Normal Totalitarian Society: How the Soviet Union
Functioned and How it Collapsed, M. E. Sharpe, 2001; János Kornai,
The Socialist System, Princeton UP, 1992; Krishan Kumar, 1989:
Revolutionary Ideas and Ideals, University of Minnesota Press, 2001;
James A. McAdams ed., Transitional Justice and the Rule of Law in New
Democracies, Notre Dame, 1997, pp. 1-26, 155-268; James A. McAdams
ed., Judging the Past in Unified Germany, Cambridge 2001; Leszek
Balcerowicz, Socialism, Capitalism, Transformation, CEU Press, 2001;
Anders Aslund, How Russia Became a Market Economy, Washington:
Brookings, 1995; Jeffrey Isaac,  Democracy in Dark Times, and Adam
Michnick, Letters from Freedom.