Václav Bělohradský

    is a Czech philosopher and sociologist. Based in Prague, he is widely regarded as the most original of Jan Patočka’s students. After the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia he went into exile and taught at the Institute of Philosophy of Genoa; in 1990 he was appointed professor of political sociology in Trieste and started teaching at the department of social sciences of Charles University in Prague. His most recent publications include the collections of essays Společnost nevinnosti (The Society of Innocence); Mezi světy & mezisvěty (Between Worlds and In-Between Worlds) and Kritika depolitizovaného rozumu (A Critique of Depoliticized Reason). “Civilisational values are shaped through a public struggle for the representation of a whole that is accepted by the majority of society. No civilisational value can be simply integrated into an existing society; it requires changes that are brought about not by the blind forces of history but rather by reasoning in public, through the public application of reason. The past is subjected to a critique by being held up to public scrutiny, thereby freeing society from those traditions that fail the ‘test of reason’. The most fundamental change resulting from the end of the old democracy could be summed up by saying that Marx’s maxim – ‘ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class’ – has again become pertinent. The only difference is that we must replace ‘ideas’ by ‘logos’. A class is a substantial community that has its own symbols and rituals as well as its own historical essence, that has constituted itself through the long existence of interests championed by the given class; present-day oligarchies lack substance, they emerge suddenly and disappear just as suddenly, leaving public space cluttered with faded logos. Ideas are anchored in civilisational values whereas logos are rooted in marketing strategies. As a result of globalisation, politics has become divorced from civilisational values, as media strategy experts serving fast-changing multinational oligarchies have replaced long-term political truths with short-term utilitarian constructs we might term political logos. Globalisation has pulverized all ‘dominant ideas’ into mere logos that have flooded the public space. Not just political parties but any movement that strives to exert public influence has to accept ‘logo-logic’, i.e. learn to speak in easily memorable and telling sound bites that spread quickly through society.”