Gáspár Miklós Tamás: “The Failure of Liberal Democracy in Eastern Europe and Everywhere Else”
Monday, September 26, 2-4 PM • 2028 University Hall • University of Illinois at Chicago
A leading dissident under Communism, liberal parliamentarian and head of the Institute of Philosophy of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in the early 1990s, and now a dissident once again, Gáspár Miklós Tamás is one of the most important thinkers of the post-Soviet era. He has held visiting professorships at several US universities, and his work has been translated into fourteen languages.
MRZ: “Which traditions of Marxism are you drawing on? Are there any contemporary writers or theories which you find especially useful, compelling, or relevant?”
GMT: “Several. Even when I was ideologically very remote from Marxism, I did not stop reading some of its literature. I was quite influenced by the early and middle work of Cornelius Castoriadis — I also knew him, an astonishing man — and Karl Korsch. Although I was personally close at one time to many people from the Lukács School, it is only now that I have read him with sustained attention. (His pupils have gone in the opposite direction, e.g., my erstwhile friend Agnes Heller has become a conservative with an increasingly strong Judaic interest, and a cold warrior après coup, who is bizarrely accusing her old friend and colleague, István Mészáros, author of Beyond Capital and guru to Hugo Chávez, of having been expelled from Canada as a Soviet agent — Mészáros is an 1956 political émigré, an emeritus professor at Sussex University with impeccable anti-Stalinist credentials.) I am an avid reader of operaismo and of pre-Empire Negri, and also at the opposite end, the Wertkritik school, in my view the best heirs to Critical Theory (Hans-Georg Backhaus, Helmut Reichelt, Michael Heinrich, but also the unruly genius, Robert Kurz, and the “cult” periodicals of this tendency, Krisis, Streifzüge, Exit!) as well as authors like Robert Brenner, Ellen Meiksins Wood, David Harvey, Michael Lebowitz, and various Marxists working in England too numerous to mention. The greatest impact came, however, from Moishe Postone’s magnum opus. These choices may seem eclectic, but I don’t belong to any of these currents. I am working on my own stuff and I am learning from all of them.”