Well, now we know who to blame for Bowling Alone….

Civil society starts here, with György Konrád‘s book of essays on the aftermath of the Hungarian Revolution, Antipolitics:

“Antipolitics is the political activity of those who don’t want to be politicians and who refuse to share in power. Antipolitics is the emergence of independent forums that can be appealed to against political power; it is a counterpower that cannot take power and does not wish to. Power it has already, here and now, by reason of its moral and cultural weight. If a notable scholar or writer takes a ministerial post in government, he thereby puts his previous work aside. Henceforth he must stand his ground as a representative of his government, and in upholding his actions against the criticisms of democratic antipolitics he may not use his scholarly or literary distinction as either a defense or an excuse.

“Antipolitics and government work in two different dimensions, two separate spheres. Antipolitics neither supports nor opposes governments; it is something different. Its people are fine right where they are; they form a network that keeps watch on political power, exerting pressure on the basis of their cultural and moral stature alone, not through any electoral legitimacy. That is their right and their obligation, but above all it is their self-defense. A rich historical tradition helps them exercise their right.

“Antipolitics is a rejection of the power monopoly of the political class. The relationship between politics and antipolitics is like the relationship between two mountains: neither one tries to usurp the other’s place; neither one can eliminate or replace the other. If the political opposition comes to power, antipolitics keeps at the same distance from, and shows the same independence of, the new government. It will do so even if the new government is made up of sympathetic individuals, friends perhaps; indeed, in such cases it will have the greatest need for independence and distance.

“In his thinking, the antipolitician is not politic. He doesn’t ask himself whether it is a practical, useful, politic thing to express his opinion openly. In contrast with the secrecy of the leadership, antipolitics means publicity; it is a power exercised directly over society, through civil courage, and one that differs by definition from any present or future power of the state.

“Antipolitics means perspicacity; it means ineradicable suspicion toward the mass of political judgments that surround us. Often these judgments are simply aggression in another form. We shouldn’t forget that older men whose physical and nervous energies are failing are especially prone to intellectual aggression of the most savage and relentless kind, though always in the name of noble ideals. Spiritual authority is the practice of this kind of antipolitical understanding.

“But what does spiritual authority have to offer that is positive? How is it anything more than sheer negativity? It asserts the worth of human life as a value in itself, not requiring further justification. It respects human beings’ fear of death. it views the lives of people of other countries and cultures as equal in value to those of our countrymen. it refuses to license killing on any political grounds whatever. I regard the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ as an absolute command. I have never killed, I want to avoid killing, yet it’s not impossible that situations may arise in which I will kill. If I do, I will be a murderer and will consider myself one. Murderers must expiate their crimes.

“Antipolitics looks kindly on the ecumenical variety of religions and styles and doesn’t believe that the condition for the existence of one cultural reality is the extinction of another.

“Antipolitics prefers qualitative competition to silly quantitative questions about the who is stronger. Who is stronger is really of no interest. For the antipolitican, it is more interesting to know whether a community produces an intelligent and honest portrait of itself, not how much technical power it commands.

“Antipolitics asserts the right of every community to defend itself, with adequate defensive weapons, against occupiers. It is a great misfortune to have to fire on occupiers. We would become murderers ourselves in so doing, but it may happen that we will decide we have to be murderers.”

Second Opinions