The Post-Communist Era: Challenges and Opportunities

The Annual James Madison Program May Conference

May 11, 2009
ASFI 2009 Poster

Two-Day Conference cosponsored by the Association for the Study of Free Institutions, University of Nebraska at Omaha; The Program in Contemporary European Politics and Society, Princeton University.

Presentation of Award of the Association for the Study of Free Institutions to Richard Pipes, Frank B. Baird, Jr., Professor of History, Emeritus, Harvard University 

The peaceful passing of the Soviet Union must be regarded as one of the key moments in the history of human freedom. So great was the promise of this moment that it led some to anticipate an end of history, that is, to the establishment of universal agreement on liberal democracy and free markets as the best way to organize societies. Nevertheless, the first twenty years of the post-communist era have proven more turbulent than many would have predicted. While some states of the former Soviet bloc have made impressive strides toward the establishment of stable democratic and free market institutions, the progress of Russia itself has been problematic at best. In addition, the events of September 11, 2001 showed that there are ideological movements afoot in the world that do not share the values of the West and that have sufficient power to pose a serious security threat to free societies. Most recently, in the last several months the industrialized democracies have experienced an economic crisis that has led some public voices to question the reliability of free markets and that has fostered a widespread turn to government regulation and spending as the only way to avert catastrophe.

Seeking to commemorate this anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and to foster the serious reflection that it and subsequent history demand, the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions is pleased to announce a conference on the opportunities and challenges that confront free societies in the post- communist era. The program includes scholars from a variety of disciplines in the social sciences and humanities speaking on issues such as the role of American political thought in relation to formerly communist states, the late Samuel Huntington’s interpretation of international politics in the post-communist era, the continuing relevance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the trajectory of European politics since the fall of communism, and the role of western intellectuals in interpreting the significance of communism and the post-communist world. We seek to address a number of questions: To what extent have democratic reformers in post-communist societies been instructed by American political thought and its emphasis on constitutionalism and limited government? What, if anything, can such societies learn from the American political tradition? Has the fall of communism, and the accompanying cessation of international ideological conflict, simply established the conditions for other forms of conflict, for what Huntington termed a “clash of civilizations”? What role can be played by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in guiding the development of a post-communist world? What is the future of Europe, the cradle of both liberal democracy and communism, in the post-communist era? Has the discourse of western intellectuals tended to clarify or obscure the character of communism and the issues raised in the wake of its passing? Most generally, what are the prospects for the continued vitality of free institutions in the post-communist world?

Keynote Address: Reflections on Communism 
Richard Pipes, Frank B. Baird, Jr., Professor of History, Emeritus, Harvard University

Lessons Learned from the 1989 Revolution in Central Europe 
Panelists: Istvan Deák, Columbia University; Janine R. Wedel, George Mason University; Jonathan R. Zatlin, Boston University; Chair: Harold James, Princeton University 

American Political Thought and the Restoration of Democracy in Central Europe
Panelists: Aurelian Craiutu, Institute for Advanced Studies and Indiana University; Marzenna James, Princeton University; Martin Palouš, Permanent Representative to the United Nations for the Czech Republic; Marc Plattner, National Endowment for Democracy; Chair: James R. Stoner, Louisiana State University 

The Clash of Civilizations Revisited 
Panelists: Aaron L. Friedberg, Princeton University; James R. Kurth, Swarthmore College; Abram N. Shulsky, Former Official of the U. S. Department of Defense; Chair: Gabriel Schoenfeld, Witherspoon Institute 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 60: Beacon of Hope or Dead End?
Panelists: Paul Marshall, Hudson Institute; John O. McGinnis, Northwestern University School of Law; Jeremy A. Rabkin, George Mason University School of Law; Chair: George W. Dent, Jr., Case Western Reserve University School of Law 

The Response of Western Intellectuals to Communism and Its Collapse
Panelists: John Earl Haynes, Library of Congress; Paul Hollander, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Harvey Klehr, Emory University; Alan Charles Kors, University of Pennsylvania; Chair: Michael Reynolds, Princeton University

Video:

Reflections on Communism

Lessons Learned from the 1989 Revolution in Central Europe

American Political Thought and the Restoration of Democracy in Central Europe

The Clash of Civilizations Revisited

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 60: Beacon of Hope or Dead End?

The Response of Western Intellectuals to Communism and Its Collapse

Location:

Aaron Burr 219

Photo Album:

  • Discussion of the post-communist era
  • Discussion of the post-communist era
  • Discussion of the post-communist era