REFLECTIONS ON THE REVOLUTION IN EUROPE: In a Letter Intended to Have Been Sent to a Gentleman in Warsaw by Ralf Dahrendorf

REFLECTIONS ON THE REVOLUTION IN EUROPE: In a Letter Intended to Have Been Sent to a Gentleman in Warsaw

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Former director of the London School of Economics, Dahrendorf (Society and Democracy in Germany, 1967) now draws on his extensive knowledge of politics and philosophy to analyze the options available to the revolutionary governments in Eastern Europe. Inspired by Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, Dahrendorf presents this treatise on the recent uprisings in the form of a letter to a Polish friend. It is divided into three parts: his thoughts on revolution and the need for open societies; the political and economic prerequisites for freedom; and the problem of Germany and the future of European unity. Dahrendorf invokes past and contemporary authorities, especially Karl Popper, to urge Eastern European nations to reject all ideological bases of government, however enticing, and to commit themselves to creating open societies with individual freedoms and constitutional governments. He realizes, however, that the preconditions for establishing open societies have been inadequately thought out and are not easily met. According to Dahrendorf, the creation of open societies requires delicate balances between economic growth, social justice, and the emergence of constitutional institutions. A failure to strike such balances could result in a return to fascist-like regimes. Although Eastern Europe is focused on self-determination while Western Europe is seeking new forms of unification, Dahrendorf encourages Eastern European nations to develop their own pluralistic societies while maintaining and increasing their contacts with Western Europe. He sees little to fear from a reunited Germany. A thoughtful, well-written essay advocating that Eastern Europe draw upon the liberal constitutional tradition of the West to create conditions in which open societies can flourish. (For some fine, on-the-scene coverage of Eastern European events, see William Echikson's Lighting the Night, reviewed below.)

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1990
Publisher: Times Books