1st Edition

Communism, Science and the University Towards a Theory of Detotalitarianisation

By Ivaylo Znepolski Copyright 2020
    342 Pages
    by Routledge

    342 Pages
    by Routledge

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    The book explores the intellectual history of Bulgaria between the 1960s and the 1980s at the intersections of the country's social and political history. Based on case studies, the research delves into three areas: the control and pressure mechanisms used on science and the university; the clash of ideas while performing the formal and hidden functions of academia in a communist regime setting; the processes whereby research and academia acquire a relative autonomy and alternative academic communities are being formed amidst the eroding ideological legitimacy of the regime.

    Centred on the concept of the "incident", this setup allowed us to eschew the narratives around the role of the dissidents or "freedom as a gift" and interpret society's transformation as the outcome of intersecting and overlaying sectoral events, which gathered strength down the years and lay the ground for the eruption labelled here as the "Big Event of 1989".

    Introduction: On this Book's Nature and Objectives

    1. Siezing power and Institutionalization of “The New Socialist Science”

    Purging the university
    De-Stalinisation and swift re-Stalinisation in the university

    2. The Zhelyu Zhelev case: Sinning Against Faith and the Party Themis

    Claiming subjectivity through individual Action: eventual subjectivity
    How to use the topsy-turvy political speak
    Types of party discourses – Of the prosecution, of the defence and of the defendant
    Radical honesty or venal pragmatism?
    Structure and event in a post-Stalinist society

    Theoretical Outcomes (1): A Sense of Community Awakens – Small Goups of Civic Engagement

    3. The Ivan Slavov Case: Between the Threat of Social Exclusion and the Moral Sanction of the Group

    A pamphletist versus communist logomorphia
    Private life as pretext for political blackmail
    “The betrayal” as a private drama and test for the group’s integrity
    The excommunication from the group as a loss of identity

    Theoretical Outcomes (2): On Actions Committed under Duress and amidst Severe Freedom Shortage

    4. The Nikolay Genchev case: Against Historiography as the Chambermaid of Politics or Life in Two Parallel Worlds

    Broadening the solidarity field
    The early Nikolay Genchev and the history of the Algerian Revolution
    For a national – rather than class – history: A critique of official historiography
    A personal story morphing into social history: Tearing apart and sewing together of the physical author and his ideas
    New challenges: Initiating the debate on Bulgaria’s political system between the two World Wars
    Changes in the intentional background of action. Nikolay Genchev: the "double contingency" principle
    The dual use of the primary party organisation. Nikolay Genchev, an expert in the guerrilla warfare in the jungle of the party's chain of command

    5. The Zhelyu Zhelev Case (continued): Between Truth and Authority – Creation of “The Revisionists”

    Attempts at a philosophical position in the context of modern times
    The artfulness of a small man in the battle for survival
    Zhelyu Zhelev, the Postgraduate Student and Todor Pavlov, the Academician
    Samizdat within the bounds of legality. The scandal – a publicity strategy in a closed system
    The contrivance of scientific facts through text-substituting “translations”
    The informal public sphere – how it functions?
    A purging trend at the Philosophy Faculty
    From criticising leading to wrenching Lenin out of the dogmatic stranglehold: The generational discourse as political speak in disguise

    Theoretical Outcomes (3): “Letters to the Chief” as a Genre – Social Communication in a Closed, Overcentralised Society

    6. The Assen Ignatov Case: Beyond the Limits of the Officially Regulated Knowledge – Philosophy as a Way to Deliberate on the Human Condition

    A diagnosis of dogmatic thinking
    The witch-hunt season is open
    A basic programme for the development of social science. Alienation under socialism.
    The party tribunal against Assen Ignatov: Timid solidarity and loose ties within "the group"
    Biographies falling apart: Living in the lie and through the lie
    Sketching out a reformist agenda
    Intelligentsia and the Party bureaucracy
    A surprising deliverance: the deus ex machina and the ambivalence of the "pardoning from above"
    "Philosophy in action": a critique of the "asymmetrical relations" in the education model
    The end of a long administrative assassination
    "Disarmament" and "self-criticism": key concepts in the discourse of power
    A Bulgarian reception of Heidegger and ways of utilising the philosopher 
    Heidegger's deconstruction as a way to experience one's own existential situation: Designing a "project" for oneself
    A play between the truth of historical facts and the "logic of history"
    Baiting the other side: State Security and the philosopher 
    Redemption and its price

    Theoretical Outcomes (4): The Correlation between Coercion and Free Action in a Totalitarian State

    7. The Isak Passy Case: The Separation of Political and Intellectual Power – Theory and Information Breakthrough

    On the tragedy of a crushed ideal
    Facts against the dogmatist's theoretical superstition
    The philosophers’ enlightenment surge: A quest for the educational and moral fundamentals of young people
    Altering the whole intellectual context: “destruction through creation”

    Theoretical Outcomes (5): Academic Paradigm and Community amid the One-party Dictatorship

    8. From Zhelyu Zhelev Case to the Case of 'Fascism' Anatomy of a Chain of Incidents

    Fascism: A dissection of the totalitarian phenomenon and the semantic challenges of a book with a key
    From a manuscript titled, The Totalitarian State, to Fascism: on the collective authorship of an incident
    "Constitutional fiction" and its use
    The arraignment of the "ideological prosecution": formalism and lack of zeal
    Fissures in Censorship: Penalties for "blunted vigilance" and "political myopia"
    A split between the party commanding heights and the grassroots: The primary party organisation – one possible pocket of resistance

    9. The Dobrin Spassov Case: A Clash between the Rejection of Totalitarian Practices and the Commitment to Social Utopia

    Alien among his own or the testing of loyalty
    Hamstrung innovation
    Dobrin Spassov stepping into Todor Pavlov's boots: Efforts to overcome the "intense backwardness" of Bulgarian philosophy 
    The debate on totalitarianism and the changes in the structure of the scientific (philosophical) field
    The emergence of an alternative assessment centre of academic relevance and civil conduct
    The contradiction between the regime's nature and the principles of civil conduct

    10. The Ilcho Dimitrov Case: In Search of a Win-Win Game within the System – The Public Communications Craftsman

    Questioning the simplistic propaganda version of Bulgarian history between the two World Wars
    Ilcho Dimitrov and Todor Pavlov: historical facts against class-and-party fitness for purpose
    The intellectuals' quest to positions of power: The relationship between the power of force and the power of knowledge
    The in-out existence in two different social environments: The inexorable logic of symbolic capital exchange
    The inner workings of big power:  How can academic and political attitudes part ways
    "Paris is worth a mass": Clashes between the state administration and the party apparatus
    The horizon of reformist thinking and action

    Theoretical Outcomes (6): Specifics of Social Criticism in Totalitarian Society – Social Criticism and Social Change

    Conclusion: From the Big Event to the Incidents: A Reconstruction of the Event(ual) Identity of Historical Change


    Literature and archival sources


    Ivaylo Znepolski is the Director of the Institute for the Study of the Recent Past in Sofia, Professor at Sofia University, Bulgaria, Visiting Professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris (1994–2002), former culture minister (1993–1995), and an author of numerous books and edited volumes on the recent communist past of Bulgarian and Eastern Europe.