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The Origins of Postcommunist Elites

From Prague Spring to the Breakup of Czechoslovakia

2003
Author:

Gil Eyal

The Origins of Postcommunist Elites

A surprising look at the causes of the dissolution of Czechoslovakia

The Origins of Postcommunist Elites provides an empirical explanation for the breakup of Czechoslovakia—by tracing the political processes begun in the Prague Spring of 1968. Gil Eyal argues that Czechoslovakia’s breakup was caused by a struggle between two fractions of what sociologists call the “new class,” which consisted primarily of intellectuals and technocrats.

Eyal’s book brings a fresh perspective . . . compelling, original insight . . . An intellectually significant book, whose claim to address wider questions of power should be taken seriously.

Europe-Asia Studies

How is it that Czechoslovakia’s separation into two countries in 1993 was accomplished so peacefully—especially when compared with the experiences of its neighbors Russia and Yugoslavia? This book provides a sociological answer to this question—and an empirical explanation for the breakup of Czechoslovakia—by tracing the political processes begun in the Prague Spring of 1968.

Gil Eyal’s main argument is that Czechoslovakia’s breakup was caused by a struggle between two fractions of what sociologists call the “new class,” which consisted primarily of intellectuals and technocrats. Focusing on the process of polarization that created these two distinct political elites, Eyal shows how, in response to the events of the ill-fated Prague Spring, Czech and Slovak members of the “new class” embarked on divergent paths and developed radically different, even opposed, identities, worldviews, and interests. Unlike most accounts of postcommunist nationalist conflict, this book suggests that what bound together each of these fractions—and what differentiated each from the other—were not national identities and nationalist sentiments per se, but their distinctive visions of the social role of intellectuals.


The Origins of Postcommunist Elites

Gil Eyal is associate professor of sociology at Columbia University.

The Origins of Postcommunist Elites

Eyal’s book brings a fresh perspective . . . compelling, original insight . . . An intellectually significant book, whose claim to address wider questions of power should be taken seriously.

Europe-Asia Studies

Eyal’s analysis is a provocative one . . . a novel and challenging perspective on the events and key actors of the critical period that ended in the demise of the Czechoslovak federation.

Slavic Review

The Origins of Postcommunist Elites

Contents

Acknowledgments
Abbreviations

Introduction

1. The Idea of the New Class
2. The 1968 Purges and Their Consequences
3. The Power of Antipolitics
4. Games of the Upper Class
5. The Making and Breaking of the Postcommunist Political Field

Conclusion

Appendix: The Elite and General Population Surveys

Notes

Index