Dr Petra Gümplová

Alumni Fellow

Research Project at the Centre

(Dis)Illusions of the Empowered: Moral Psychology of Resistance in Postdemocratic Age

Political theorists and commentators have been busy explaining recent decline of liberal democracy in Central and Eastern Europe. A history of victim mentality, no experience with immigration and with multiculturalism, the failure of post-communist transformation especially to deliver on economic promises of prosperity, the lack of liberal democratic political culture, the history of intolerance of minorities based on the experience of failed efforts to integrate Roma populations, the failures of centrist and liberal parties and elites' leadership have been named and discussed.

Unlike the available explanations, this project (Dis)Illusions of the Empowered: Moral Psychology of Resistance in Postdemocratic Age seeks to tackle the current decline of liberal democracy, so paradigmatically represented in the opposition to migration and attempts at EU's common refugee policy, from a distinct perspective of an interplay between more general post-democratic tendencies plaguing contemporary democracies and misconceived forms of resistance to these tendencies. The project thus seeks to diagnose contemporary liberal democracy and illuminate what might be called a 'moral psychology of resistance' to these tendencies. In the first step, the aim is to elaborate a novel critical diagnosis of contemporary liberal democracy focusing not only on the emphasis on economic rationality but also taking into consideration legal positivization of human relations, fragmentarization and compartmentalization of social roles, and role of new ideologies such as security, autonomy, or good life. In the second step, the aim is to shed light on how these tendencies erode liberal democratic ethos and trigger decidedly undemocratic and illiberal forms of resistance.

The project represents the continuity with my previous work on theory and practice of dissident forms of resistance against communist dictatorships. It follows up on Václav Havel's distinct critical theory approach to analyzing pathologies of modern societies regardless of political regime and resulting from destructive forces such as legalization, bureaucratization, technocracy, and ideology and from his original insight that they have a profound impact on individual moral sources necessary to sustain individual and collective freedom and solidarity. The project also revitalizes his call for distinctly individual forms of resistance against these forces which consist, according to Havel, in regaining moral integrity and acting upon it based on ethics of responsibility for the world. The project can also be imagined as a task of rewriting Havel's essay Power of the Powerless as a resistance manifesto for current age.


April 2017 – January 2018