The Power of the Powerless (Routledge Revivals): Citizens Against the State in Central-eastern Europe, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

The Power of the Powerless (Routledge Revivals)

Citizens Against the State in Central-eastern Europe, 1st Edition

By Vaclav Havel


228 pages

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Books of great political insight and novelty always outlive their time of birth and this reissued work, initially published in 1985, is no exception. Written shortly after the formation of Charter 77, the essays in this collection are among the most original and compelling pieces of political writing to have emerged from central and Eastern Europe during the whole of the post-war period. Václav Havel’s essay provides the title for the book. It was read by all the contributors who in turn responded to the many questions which Havel raises about the potential power of the powerless.

The essays explain the anti-democratic features and limits of Soviet-type totalitarian systems of power. They discuss such concepts as ideology, democracy, civil liberty, law and the state from a perspective which is radically different from that of people living in liberal western democracies. The authors also discuss the prospects for democratic change under totalitarian conditions. Steven Lukes’ introduction provides an invaluable political and historical context for these writings.

The authors represent a very broad spectrum of democratic opinion, including liberal, conservative and socialist.


‘This brilliant text is undoubtedly the finest analysis ever made of the `post-totalitarian' systems.’ - Times Literary Supplement

‘A profound intellectual tour de force that analyzes the `post-totalitarian' system of Eastern Europe. … Havel's The Power of the Powerless has not lost its intellectual appeal.’ - Slavic Review

Table of Contents

1. The Power of the Powerless 2. Spiritual Values, Independent Initiatives and Politics 3. Catholicism and Politics 4. On the Question of Chartism 5. The Human Rights Movement and Social Progress 6. Prospects for Democracy and Socialism in Eastern Europe 7. Chartism and ‘real socialism’ 8. Who Really is Isolated? 9. The Alternative Community as Revolutionary Avant-garde 10. Thoughts inside a Tightly-corked Bottle 11. On not Living in Hatred

About the Series

Routledge Revivals

Are there elusive titles that you need and have been trying to source for years but thought that you would never be able to find?

Well this may be the end of your quest – here is a fantastic opportunity for you to discover past brilliance and purchase previously out of print and unavailable titles by some of the world’s most eminent academic scholars.

Drawing from over 100 years of innovative, cutting-edge publishing, Routledge Revivals is an exciting programme whereby key titles from the distinguished and extensive backlist of the many acclaimed imprints associated with Routledge will be re-issued.

The programme draws upon the illustrious backlists of Kegan Paul, Trench & Trubner, Routledge & Kegan Paul, Methuen, Allen & Unwin and Routledge itself.

Routledge Revivals spans the whole of the Humanities and Social Sciences, and includes works by some of the world’s greatest thinkers including Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Simone Weil, Martin Buber, Karl Jaspers and Max Beloff.

If you are interested in Revivals in the Behavioral Sciences, please visit

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / Civil Rights
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Ideologies / Communism & Socialism
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Ideologies / Democracy
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / Leadership