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Critical Thinking in Slovakia after Socialism


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Critical thinking is the civic virtue of a liberal democracy. Citizens who think for themselves, cooperate, and can agree to disagree are the hallmark of a self-governing society. People from undemocratic societies, however, are often believed to lack this virtue, because authoritarian regimes smother critical discourse through fear and dull critical thought through the control of information and propaganda. After the end of Communist rule in 1989, Western agents of democratization and educational development chided the residents of the former Czechoslovakia for this deficiency, claiming that the Slovaks' inability to think critically was the reason the nation struggled to integrate with Western Europe.
Critical Thinking in Slovakia after Socialism examines this putative relationship between critical thought and society through an ethnographic study of post-1989 Slovakia. Drawing on original fieldwork and anthropological theories of language and culture, Jonathan Larson uncovers patterns of social analysis and criticism in Slovak political discourse. He exposes ways in which these discursive practices have been misinterpreted and explains their underlying dynamics in Slovak society. This important volume, bringing together scholarship on East Central Europe, liberalism, education, and the public sphere, gives students of modern history, politics, and culture a fresh perspective on a skill essential to civil society.

Jonathan L. Larson is visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Iowa.


Critical Thinking in Slovakia after Socialism has global relevance for anyone interested in the ways that post-Enlightenment critical thought remains active in the public sphere and the ways that schooling shapes society. Larson meets the challenge of making a book on intellectual and educational institutions relevant to a broader audience. H-NET REVIEWS

In this highly original account, Jonathan Larson interrogates what it means to possess and to lack "critical thinking," a virtue at once central to, and elusive within, the political imaginations of liberalism and socialism. Superbly conceived and realized, Larson's ethnography unpacks how critical thinking became a key subject of desire and dispute in the process of refashioning political subjectivity in postsocialist Slovakia. --Dominic Boyer, Professor of Anthropology, Rice University


First Published: 15 Apr 2013
13 Digit ISBN: 9781580464376
14 black and white illustrations
Pages: 260
Size: 9 x 6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: University of Rochester Press
BIC Class: GTB

Details updated on 05 Oct 2015


  • 1  Introduction
  • 2  Separation, Judgment, and Laments of Civic Criticism
  • 3  Civility and Crisis in the Slovak Public Sphere
  • 4  Sentimental Kritika
  • 5  Love, L'udskost' and Education for Democracy
  • 6  Young Literary Critics
  • 7  Conclusion
  • 8  Notes
  • 9  Bibliography
  • 10  Index

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