2 November 2001
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Looking at the history and current situation of the Bulgarian universities vis-a-vis the ideals at the basis of the Humboldtian University, Alexander Kiossev finds that the debate about the role and responsibility of the University needs to be opened up again - and that this debate should not be limited to Bulgaria alone.

For several decades now the ghost of illegitimacy has been roaming across the universities of the world. The question about their raison d’être rears its head – the question of their ultimate principles, fundamentals, sufficient grounds and moral justification. Where some ask themselves about the rationality, usefulness and functionality of the university, others worry whether the universities will manage to preserve their a-functionality and beyond-usefulness, and whether, while criticising the same reason of rationality, they will manage to continue to exist, not as unreasonable institutions, but as institutions beyond reason. In Germany and in the USA, in France and England1, prolonged and furious discussions have been held, starting off from such practical matters as the access of students to research work, correct management, student fees and the limits of professorial powers, and ending up at the holy of holies – the autonomy of the university, the founding principle of reason, the unity of the academic “universum” of sciences and the function of the scientific truth in an increasingly differentiated post-industrial society.

In France, after the student crisis in 1968, these squabbles focused several times around hot books sending the university up into the midst of heavy discussion. I cannot focus here on the thesis of “homo academicus” and the “Maxwell’s demon” – the left wing interpretation of the university situation by Pierre Bourdieu (which is scandalous enough in itself since Bourdieu depicted the university as solely a modern magical mechanism for selection and reproduction of the class and mentality segregation). I would rather make a very short comment on Francois Lyotard prominent 1979 book The Post-Modern Condition and Jacques Derrida‘s lecture cycle on the university, summarised in his well known study The Principle of Reason. The University in the Eyes of its Pupils2. The Post-Modern Condition describes the university and modern science as self-legitimising institutions: their own foundation lies in what they, by virtue of their own nature, should deny: their principles of cognition are based on the rejection of “narrative knowledge” and in replacing it with the procedures of academic research, rationality and proof – but who can prove the proof itself? Lyotard’s analysis shows that the modern university rests nonetheless upon a modern . The reason for social existence is the great German narrative of the university as the institutional location of the self-motion of the universal speculative Spirit. According to Fichte, Schleiermacher and Humboldt (in Lyotard’s analysis), this should provide the connection between the universe of the theoretical and practical reason as well as postulate the central place of the philosophic faculty within the university (since philosophy is a discipline binding up all private faculties and sciences into unity and totality). Following the evolution of technology and science after World War II, this modern myth – the narrative of the speculative adventures of the universalising philosophic Spirit – lost credit, according to Lyotard. The post-modern science is legitimised not within such a large-scale ideological framework but by means of the consensus among experts and the new forms of applicability – i.e. by the flexible pragmatism of the various axiomatic systems, the relationship with the political and economic power, the substitution of the principle of effectiveness for the criteria of truthfulness. Consequently, the hierarchical pyramid of sciences and faculties has given ground to the horizontal network of research with movable boundaries.

Despite the substantial differences, Derrida speculates about the university crisis in a similar direction. He sets out from the point, that no university has so far been known to be based on a principle different from that of reason – which is actually the principle of basis, of sufficient grounds, of fundamentals (and further on – of the reasons, the value justification, the meaning and the mission). But who can define the reasoning behind this principle of reason? Underneath the rationality of the university gapes the abyss of that which stretches beyond reason (without necessarily being against reason, without being a foolish irrationality) – this is the abysmal question of Being. The problematic nature of reason (and therefore of the university institution) manifests itself in the impossibility of the principle of reason to be a reason in itself. Within the tradition of Aristotle, Kant, Heidegger and Nietzsche, Derrida finds a self-awareness of this radicalisation of reason, questioning itself as to the grounds of its own rationality, that is the grounds of reasoning itself. Hence, he claims that the radical reflection on the destiny of the university should be assigned not to the sociologists and politologists of knowledge (delegates of the comfortable “inside” of the university institution, subject to the standards it wants to analyse) but rather to the successors of Kant’s and Heidegger’s tradition. Derrida entrusts the responsibilities and risks of a new project of speculation inside and beyond the university institution to those who are aware that metaphysics and technology have proved to be interrelated, that applied and fundamental knowledge are not separated by a clear-cut border anymore in an era of information and calculation of unpredictable effects, and that knowledge has always played a hand in the games of power. Those who are able to take on the risk of standing up against this, have to be brought up within the tradition of reason and university, yet at the same time have to be prepared to radicalise not only its own inquiries but the very modalities of academic writing, the pedagogical approaches, the attitude towards language and the disciplines of the very institution.

Similar arguments over the fundamentals took place somewhat later in the USA. Of course, they were rooted into the context of the American higher education and its multiple “revolutions”. After World War II, in the environment of rising world power, amidst constant geo-political and political, financial and social change, the American universities (in which German, British and Scottish tertiary education models had been competing for centuries) went, with certain parallels, through what the Humboldtian University in Germany had been through before, and what the centrally administrated, government, “Napoleonic University” in France had undergone. They stopped being small elite institutions for higher education and, with some exceptions, radically opened themselves to the public. This was as much a result of the marriage between science and technology, production and the defence industry, as it was a consequence of the baby-boom after World War II. As a specific US feature, the Cold War and the liberalised policy towards ethnic minorities lead not only to expanding public universities, but also to subsidising a huge number of newly sprung faculties and jobs across the so called “area studies” and the languages of international politics. This in turn led, especially after the Cold War had ended and the demand for such jobs started to evaporate, to the alienation of such faculties and specialisms from the local needs of the American counties. These discrepancies boiled over into open hostilities between the powerful and intellectually radical academic left and the surrounding “conservative majority”. The campuses advertising and practising multiculturalism and political correctness clashed with the “common American” outside of the university premises. Since these citizens and their representations upheld the moral combination “the American dream + media + clear, winning role models + family values” in the face of certain political elites, public or private funds and foundations, the question quite naturally occurred whether they had to sponsor the leftist academic freedom. Parallel to that a conflict was simmering inside the universities, between the same radical humanitarian left and the technocratic and executive-minded administration. The latter wanted to turn the university once and for all into an “institution of excellence”, i.e. a flimsy conglomerate of research institutes and professional schools based on the principle of applicability and meeting the demand of the student customer for professional education, thus providing services to the local communities. Other types of inside squabbles were under way in the academia, e.g. those between the radical supporters of gender, race and sex politics and the classical academic liberalism.

A whole host of arguments occured on in this context over the role and the mission of the university the multitude of which I would be hard-put even to sketch here. The band-wagon was jumped by a number of academic figures of different political colour and intellectual quality: from conservatives like Alan Bloom, all the way to deconstructivist radicals like Bill Readings; from intellectual activists like Edward Said, through liberal individualists like Ronald Dworkin, to neo-pragmatics like Richard Rorty or Stanley Fish. To illustrate this eerie variety, I will briefly discuss two kinds of opinions.3

Choosing as his starting point the conflict between the new codes of political correctness (stigmatising and censoring the so called “speech hate codes”) and the old institution of academic freedom, Ronald Dworkin makes an attempt to explain and legitimise in a new fashion the autonomy and liberty of the academia. He sees their roots, not in truth or reason, but in the principle of “the ethical individualism”. The latter finds its expression in everybody’s duty to make the best of him or herself in a successful life. This logically gives birth to the right of a personal conviction as to what makes a successful life as well as to another moral obligation – to abstain from declaring what you believe is wrong, and to openly speak out what you think is the truth. Therefore it is not the truth but this morally justified of the individual that provides the grounds for academic freedom. Ethical individualism is “the inspiration behind the institutions”. According to Dworkin, the academic profession and the university institution imply upgraded versions of the same ethical individualism. They constitute a part of the culture of independence, as opposed to the culture of conformism and the totalitarian culture of collectively-guarded truths.

Unlike Dworkin, Richard Rorty started off from the traditionally American legitimisation of the university and its autonomy by the principle of an “independent search for the truth” laid down even in the First Paper of the National Association of University Professors called Report on Academic Freedom and Tenure (written in 1915 by the founders Seligman and Lovejoy). Discussing the philosophical makings of this “casual” legitimisation, Rorty wrote:

One way to justify such a custom is to start from the premise that the search for objective truth is something quite distinctive from politics, and indeed distinct from almost all other cultural activities. So, the argument goes, if politics or passion intrudes on that search, the purpose of colleges and universities – the accumulation of knowledge – will not be served… A number of contemporary philosophers, including myself, do their best to complicate the traditional distinction between the objective and the subjective, reason and passion, knowledge and opinion, science and politics. We offer contentious reinterpretations of these distinctions, draw them in nontraditional ways. For example, we deny that the search for objective truth is a search for correspondence to reality, and urge that it be seen instead as a search for the widest possible intersubjective agreements.

The unlikely compatibility between the claims of Dworkin and Rorty might, indeed, be a topic for a separate analysis, but this is not what we are aiming at here: our goal is to see how the practical problems of the university necessarily echo a whole spectrum of discussions – not only practical, but also radically theoretical ones, daring to question century-old terms and traditions.

The modern German discussion on the university and its fate has a longer and a more peculiar history. Back in the 50’s, in the post-war German Federal Republic, a programme for university reform was created, having at its core Karl Jasper’s idea of a Renaissance in the Humboldtian university. Jaspers’s restoration zeal4 for an autonomy of the university in the name of the pluralist search for truth, for an academic “universum” of knowledge, for the unity of teaching and research, and for the educational and personally formative function of the university became subject of many objections even in its own time. Yet in his first publications Jürgen Habermas seriously attacked the ideology of the university “mandarins”, as he called the Humboldtianism of Jaspers. For him, Humboldt’s promises remained unfulfilled (Das chronische Leiden der Hochschulreform, 1957): the German university has not delivered the cherished “universum” of sciences, the unity of teaching and research was never achieved, and the traditional autonomy of the university was seriously harmed. The criticism of the neo-romantic restoration-minded Humboldtianism was countinued in Habermas’s later publications: Vom sozialen Wandel akademischer Bildung (1963), Zwangsjacke zur Studienreform (1966), Universität in der Demokratie – Demokratisierung der Universität, and in a sequence of minor ones all the way to the notorious study Die Idee der Universität – Lernprozesse (1987)5. Contrary to the mandarins’ hopes, the modern German university harbours processes adversary to the Humboldtian idea: deterioration of the quality of teaching, dispersal of increasingly specialised disciplines, bureaucratisation of the whole institution. The pith of the university – science – has long ceased to be what Schleiermacher dreamt of – an impartial quest for truth within the fold of a researching and debating community. The modern world has turned science into one of the most significant social sub-systems of rationality and effectiveness, a neutered (in terms of values) production force which has colonised the lifeworld through technology and rational bureaucracy. This is the modern paradox: the world has already been structured in the pursuit of the laws of scientific rationality, yet at the same time science itself has been stripped of its critical sting and became instrumental to alien ends.

In a world like that there are no privileged autonomous territories and there cannot be any. The university is incapable of preserving its own independence in an old-fashioned way, being sucked into powerful social processes transforming everything across the board. The state and the economy are powerful and demanding customers of the university institution which is fragmented further down and subdued by the principle of effecacy. Jaspers claimed that an institution is viable as long as it is inseminated by its primary idea; but the moment the idea somehow leaks out, the institution is already an empty shell. Habermas denied the foundation of institutions upon ideas: “Couldn’t he (Jaspers) have learned from Max Weber”, wrote Habermas,

that the organisational reality into which the functionally specific subsystems of a highly differentiated society settle and take shape rests on completely different premises? The capacity of such operations and institutions to function depends precisely on the detachment of organizational goals and function from the motivations of their members. Organizations no longer embody ideas. Those who would bind them to ideas would have to restrict the scope of their operations to the comparatively narrow horizon of the lifeworld intersubjectively shared by their members.


However, Habermas is not willing to bid a final goodbye to the Humboldtian university. He does not seek to integrate normative ideas, but, similarly, does not endorse the functionalist assumption that the university, just like so many other institutions, is merely one of the over-fragmented sub-systems of society, which, just like any other sub-system, regulates itself by means of information flow, money and executive schemes. Unlike the systematic theorists, Habermas believes that the university is still rooted in the life world of man through three intertwined functions: firstly, the university carries out the socialisation of young people; secondly, the university hands down cultural traditions while critically renewing them; and thirdly, the university can create models of public civil conduct through its discussion ethos. Therefore, his conclusion is: As long as this inter-dependency is not completely torn apart, the idea of the university is not thoroughly dead.

I will certainly not hide the desire behind this text to apply a Habermasian critical instrumentarium in an attempt to analyse the cumbersome Bulgarian academic situation. Such an application proved so difficult, though, that I was compelled to adjust and alter the tool itself. This confession might be interpreted either as an excuse for the eventual failure of the analysis, or as a criticism of the universality of the tool itself.
After the 1989 transition throughout Eastern Europe, the fate of the university in the context of the post-totalitarian crises was widely discussed. In one respect, however, these discussions were markedly different from the discussions outlined so far – the disputes over practical problems encountered difficulties in the attempt to transcend into discussions on legitimacy. The reflection on practical problems (outdated legislation, the popular nature of the university or the opening to the wider public, deterioration of quality, business applicability and commercialisation, poor management, etc.) could not clear certain thresholds in the public mind in order to span to the issues of the ultimate values and ideas upon which the university rests. The countless international and East European programmes, the mega-projects, the conferences, workshops, expert groups, etc., even institutions7 offered solely pragmatic discussions about the parameters of the crisis and the tools to prevent real-time disasters.

Things took a similar turn in Bulgaria. The parameters of the situation were outlined with relative clarity8 – they looked roughly like this: abrupt growth of the number of students (126 000 in 1989, 230 000 in 1998 ), with a constant and ageing teaching staff; dwindling government subsidies for education and especially so for research: as a result – an unnecessary and commercialised fragmentation of universities and countless provincial subsidiaries. They went in line neither with the capacity of the quickly depreciating facilities and equipment (miserable libraries, laboratories, etc.) nor with the critical demographic situation. The lack of quality university management, of strategic planning and information policy was increasingly painful; the non-transparency of financial operations and the shortages in skills and capacity needed to meet the dynamic market demands were leading further down to the bottom. Against the background of this institutional crisis, the intrinsically academic problems like the brain drain, growing provincialism and uneven admission across the specialities (according to statistics, in 1997 there were 60 000 economists and 16 lawyers as undergraduates for a population of 8, 2 million), appeared more like nonentities and were pushed to the sideline. Despite the fact that the slump in teaching quality and the lack of motivation among students were unanimously pin-pointed as the harshest consequences of all the above problems, these issues somehow did not fit into the framework of expert thinking.

I am not prone to underestimate these practical matters. The expert recipes to cope with them could be classified into two basic types: on the one hand, new governmental centralisation, restrictive educational policy and administrative control or, on the other, flexible models aimed at uniting demands of civil society, diversification, competence and the market. Both types, however, constituted an attempt to supervise the Bulgarian university – from the outside and with a clear picture of interests, applicability and benefits. The varieties of both types took it for granted that the Bulgarian universities had to be monitored and masterminded from the standpoint of public, political and social interests. Against this background, the Humboldtian idea – that the universities should stay autonomous for the sake of freedom, truth, the unity of sciences, the unity of research and teaching, education and enlightenment – even if that were voiced, it would have sounded like an absurd luxury to the players involved. As in other cases in Eastern Europe, the Bulgarian attempts at resolving the crisis as well as the public rhetoric of the discussions, proved oddly unsusceptible to what Schleiermacher believed to be the standards of autonomy. Let us reiterate them here, whilst remaining completely aware that in the wake of such a variety of criticism as those of Lyotard, Derrida, Rorty and Habermas these tenets have descended ever more into a legitimacy crisis of their own: the university is entitled to enjoy its autonomy for the sake of what it does, something that could not be done by anything else, the university is the uncorrupted institution of truth, that lofty temple where it is sought in solitude, liberty and honest discussion, not in compliance with any government, market or social interest, which by itself warrants the concise cosmos of knowledge and focuses the moral integrity of the nation.

Why did the Eastern European publicity, with all its neo-conservatism and restoration drive over the values of Western democracy, prove equally insensitive to both the traditional reasons of the university and the serious philosophical criticism of them? Why did the experts in Eastern Europe and in Bulgaria sideline the whole philosophical legitimacy debate, as if it was unsubstantial and irrelevant to the destiny of these universities? Why is it that in Bulgaria, for instance, new humanistic restorers of Humboldt, similar in ideas to Jaspers and Shelski never appeared?
If we decide to contextualize the Bulgarian situation not horizontally, within Eastern or Western Europe, but vertically, within Bulgarian university’s own history, than we could find ourselves tempted to make the following assumption:

The reason is simple ­ it is impossible to restore something that has never existed before. The absence of the legitimation debate is not coincidental and is not due to sheer stupidity – it is deeply rooted in the history of the Bulgarian university. The tertiary school in Bulgaria was founded in the late 19th century without anybody bothering about its philosophical values and grounds, without any discussion similar to the one of 1806 – 1811 among the founders of the Berlin Humboldt University, Schleiermacher, Fichte and Schelling. For that reason, it existed during the resurrection in a similar mould – with a murky idea for a “superior Bulgarian school” without any further philosophical reflection. The Bulgarian press promotion around the Bulgarian university project throughout the 1870’s formulated this in the following clear-cut way: “the University ought to give those who are tutored in it an upbringing purely Bulgarian and a development in the people’s spirit, and within the east orthodox denomination, which is the primary and single objective of the institution.”9 Even before its actual conception, it was regarded as a purely patriotic organisation: not as an autonomous realm of the truth, but rather as an institution securing the national identity, supporting the nation and its practical needs. Later on, the grandiloquent Renaissance arguments were transformed into bureaucratic and applicable ones – like the reasoning used by a succession of ministers over the period 1884-1888 to defend the creation of the Bulgarian university. None of them – Irecek, Giuselev, Ivanchov, Zhivkov – failed to emphasise that a higher school of this kind is necessary to produce civil servants, lawyers and, most of all, teachers so badly needed by the state. The first paragraph of the Statement of the Supreme Pedagogical Course in Sofia of 1887, for example, speaks out with the same voice as that deployed by every educational and administrative applicability: “A pedagogical course shall be established in Sofia aimed at preparing teachers for the three-grade schools.”10 The same is reiterated in the Regulation of 188811 by Stephan Stambolov, a caretaker educational secretary. In the Provisional Rules for the Establishment of a Supreme Pedagogical Course in Sofia, the difference is only apparent since the objective for founding a tertiary education is explained with symptomatic duality: “The Tertiary Pedagogical Course in Sofia is designed to provide tertiary12 education and to prepare teachers for the secondary schools.” In other words, that is the “supreme” goal (which elsewhere is the autonomy of the pure science resting upon the single-valued love for the truth and the intrinsic evolution of the self-knowledgeable spirit or – the irrevocable link between truth and education) in the Bulgarian situation proved to be indiscernible from the applicable administrative objective. Not even in the founder’s dreams, not in the projects and in the prior legal documents for the future Bulgarian university was it provided for that this would be – as the German romantic idea presupposes – an institution of the superior spiritual realm and hence will have Humboldtian autonomy.

Another utopian norm of the Humboldtian University was countered by another blank on the Bulgarian side: that the unity of knowledge, the transposition of the scattering multitude of specialised knowledge into the speculative universality of philosophy.13 The Bulgarian founding papers took no notice whatsoever of such a problem: the scattering “privacy” and fragmentation of individual disciplines did not bother them; on the contrary, they were bothered by just the opposite. The founding fathers of the Bulgarian university felt hard-pressed by the fact that “as yet”14 there was just one department – history and linguistics. They were certainly right: it should be taken for granted that in similarly impoverished founding situation the issue could not be “Der Streit der Fakultäten”, nor the speculative anxieties over their “unity” and “totality”. There could be just one cause of alarm – that the differentiation and the multitude were not in place yet. Hence the founders were keen to promise that “in the future various (underlined by the author) specialised academic branches” would be founded, new specialities “in accordance with the money and the needs” which once again emphasises the “variance” and the applied anti-Humboldtian character of the whole enterprise.15

Thus, the university, even before its foundation, was dreamt of, discussed and designed with a close and non-philosophical horizon: it was aimed at directly filling in the gaps across the ranks of the senior administrative and teaching staff. Hence its legitimacy was nationalist and practical rather than theoretical. Upon its foundation in 1888, by means of a direct ministerial ordinance, neither the initial Statute nor the Tertiary Education Act (voted unanimously into existence by the MPs on 8 December 1888) made any mention of another than that of nation building – apart from the production of teachers and civil servants, no hint was made of its mission, idea, social objective or any value to stand at the basis of its autonomy. Therefore, the university sprang up as a successive act of the modernisation of the state itself (with legislation and railway lines being constructed along the same lines), following the logic of a government, administrative and legislative decision as a thoroughly centralised institution, a branch of the Ministry of Education.

The Ministry itself however,

had no preliminary clear-cut vision for the structure of the new higher school. Whereas the first project of Todor Ivanchova contained detailed instructions referring to the character of the school… only superficial references were given in Stambolov’s Ordinance; the two departments (faculties) were blurred and only vague mention was made of a certain subject division… 16

This is also manifested in the uncertainty of goals, duration or subject terminology. The fact that one minister decided to open up a course while another minister cancelled or rescheduled it brings in another testimony for this uncertainty. The timidity of ministers was justified – public opinion itself was incredulous or even hostile to the idea for a Bulgarian university at the time. Ivan Georgov commented:

even later on, when Todor Ivanchov was minister for the second time, one of his most senior civil servants took the liberty to say before him and the rector that the lecturers in the supreme school were ragtag and bobtail without the minister making any kind of remark to him. The attitude towards the Supreme School was the same in the Ministry itself. 17

It may only be added, quoting Dimitar Agura, that

even among the initiators of this enterprise certain fears were “reigning supreme”, “certain caution” and “natural hesitation” about the future of the university which collided with the contemporary ubiquitous public mistrust towards it.18

Only six years later, in 1894, this uncertainty would be dispersed at least to some degree amongst the ministers and the National Assembly to allow for the current minister Velichkov to give way to a law whereby “the character of a university was given to the school even toward the outside… the teachers themselves were already called professors and docents… whereas the pupils themselves were already called students.” 19 This was how, being far away from any clarity of ideas itself, the Ministry sorted out faculties and chairs and relegated the curricula from top to bottom from the very beginning; it appointed, dismissed, reassigned and reshuffled the professors and then re-instated them without any explanation; the minister did it single-handedly, the rectors were only formally elected20 – overall, the spirit of bureaucratic centralism had the upper hand.

In the atmosphere of this blend of bureaucratic centralism, initial murkiness and public mistrust towards the establishment of a university, a Bulgarian debate about the issue of foundation still took place – but it was miles away from the German one. The polemic was not among philosophers, but among sceptical pragmatics and nationalistically inspired civil servants. The former were asking themselves whether it was not better “for the economy and the industry” (as was the wording of the later will of Eulogy Georgiev) to establish only a specialised technical school in Bulgaria whereas the more talented young people would be commissioned to foreign universities, for the sake of economising. The opposite party – the committed patriots – believed that a national state would be impossible without a university, and built their argument from patriotically addressing this shortage and the practical problem of the shortage of civil servants and teachers. But even they left a small outlet: in the regulations and the ministerial ordinances, variants of point G. par. 12, section IV were constantly mentioned to the effect that “those having graduated with excellency qualify for stipends for tertiary education abroad.”

Therefore the Bulgarian university did not tread the path of the German one as depicted by Habermas: an institution delivered by an idea, in which the primary utopian philosophical core is slowly degraded and dropped off from the empty and overly complicated pod of the institution.

Initiated in the above administrative and centralised manner, the Bulgarian university appears to spring up as an “institution without a philosophical idea”. One possible objection might be that it was legitimised again ideologically, that is, on the basis of patriotism. As we were able to see, this reasoning had its hey-day during the national Revival, and similar retrospect justifications were also given substantially later, when the first historical writings dedicated to the university started to appear, whipped up by anniversaries and jubilees, and produced by Agura, Georgov, Shishmanov and Arnaudov. Such ideological reasoning, however, plays into the hands of our assumption, rather than to refute it. In 1929, Professor Ivan Georgov, the first philosopher of the university, unfolded the traditional patriotic argument in the following way: “none of the Balkan nations, barring the Greeks, have manifested such a proclivity and love towards disseminating education…the other Balkan peoples segregated themselves politically at first and founded their own states whereas the Bulgarian nation alone follows its own path in its Revival.” On this basis, Georgov drew an almost messianic conclusion: “This fact is an apparent sign that among there exists a powerful natural drive towards education and culture the Bulgarian people.” The national arrogance, as well as the frank oximoronic structure of the phrase – a “natural drive towards culture” – reveals its ideological bottom line. Therefore, it can hardly be called a philosophical argument, it is rather a suggestive formula, a hypnotic cliché of the patriotic discourse, rather than a self-reflexive inquiry for the ultimate grounds of the phenomena. As a piece of ideology, it is a building block in the official jargon of the same civil servants and professors who had founded the university: i.e., it is a romantically elevated cliché designed to legitimise the nationally bureaucratic “applicability” of the university. Such formulae bear no relation to the philosophic reasoning of the autonomy and the universal character of the university. The abyss of the circular logocentric argumentation discussed by Derrida can not be discussed beneath them. As I already pointed out, such statements relate to the government, to administrative self-evidence: the university does exist since it produces teachers and civil servants. (If we combine this with the patriotism and the naivete of the educational civil servants at the time: the need for these cadres to build up the state – is this not a component of the same natural drive of the Bulgarian people towards knowledge, culture and emancipation?).

Sluggishly, devoid of reflection and following practical routes, the Bulgarian Supreme School did manage to approach certain features of the autonomous and self-centred university institution. No matter how odd it may be, the Bulgarian university discovered its own segregation from the sphere of the political not so much for reasons of protecting itself from the encroachment of the state and the partisan governments (even though there was no shortage of partisan nominations, against which the Academic Board reacted in a very restrained and diffident manner). Since 1894, when the law, securing the formal autonomy of the university, was voted, the major hardship of the academic authority came from elsewhere: from the grassroots level, from the strong politicisation of the contemporary studentship. As early as in 1891, the Ministry of the Interior signalled “that the students are arduously committed to studying revolutionary European literature.” Contrary to the university rules, the students of the young university used to frequently (1891, 1895, 189721, 1901, 1905) organise meetings and rallies over political and national issues, cancelled lectures and whole class days, blocked auditoriums and compelled the academic management to segregate civil from students’ rights and obligations, to protect “the liberty of teaching” and to sanction the students by cancellation of lectures till further notice, by second enrolment in the same grade, by provisional or eternal dismissal, by disbanding students’ unions, etc. The climax of this process was the students demonstration triggered by the opening of the National Theatre in 1907 which ended up with the scandalous booing of Tsar Ferdinand. As is known, the government issued a decree on the issue which was later voted on by the National Assembly. The decree dissolved the university, expelled all students and fired the professors. The same month (January 1907), the government submitted a new Tertiary Education Act to the Parliament, terminating the university autonomy provided by the 1894 Act. It was not before the turmoil of this “university crisis”, that the Bulgarian intellectual and academic circles began developing arguments defending the principle of the autonomy of the university and the freedom of pure science:

The government will not be able to prove to us that the autonomy given to our university has had a pernicious impact upon the upbringing of our university youth, because it is widely-known that the essence of the autonomous liberty only refers to the freedom of science taught in the university, and that without this kind of freedom, science could not flourish at all – let alone in this country, where within our impoverished conditions, it is just about taking root. Outside of the university premises, where the student plays the role of a citizen, the university autonomy does not apply since the student is here stripped of all privilege and bears responsibility for his own deeds before the law on a par with every other Bulgarian citizen. It is therefore clear that our government, having rolled up its sleeves to destroy the autonomy of the university, (…) will in essence annihilate the freedom of science, will introduce (…) an administrative interference into the university organisation which will be harmful to its success.22

The historic appreciation, which we should give to the honourable act of the professorial society, standing up against the heavy-handedness of the government, should not stand in the way of taking notice of the specific rhetoric of the appeal “To the Bulgarian Society”. I do not have the opportunity here to analyse all its complexity and confusion. To put it in simpler terms, the philosophic argument23, the conservative, the confrontational and political, and the loyal subject24 arguments are mixed up in a strange, controversial, if rather well integrated public speech, aimed at one thing alone – to get the upper hand in the fight with minister Apostolov and the government. This speechifying is neither a reflection, nor a criticism of the grounds, the of the university. There is a simple reason behind this – for the Bulgarian academic society finding itself in a conflict, these grounds are not a problem because they are well-known. What had been an issue in Prussia in 1809, and would be a problem for France in 1968 and the USA in the 80’s and 90’s, was not an issue in Bulgaria and its university in the early 20th century.

How are we to explain the fact that in one of the few cases when a debate on the legitimacy of the university institution could arise, asking and answering questions about the intellectual grounds of the university’s existence and its academic liberties, the debate proved to be a non-starter? Bulgarian academics chose to quote the widely-known basics instead of reflecting on them.

The reason is certainly not a lack of intelligence or dignity, it is hidden in the characteristics of the cultural model providing the very context of the university institution.25 The Bulgarian university originated as “our university” filling a painful gap. It came into being “to the pride of Bulgaria as an emblem of our nation’s civilisation26, to make real a people’s ideal (…) to put the key stone to building our education in our development as a civilised nation (…) we are not an exception to the rest of the nations, and especially not to our neighbours”27. Such a patriotic and civilised, fill-in-the-gaps fervour makes a loan translation of the institutions, including the academic ones, after prestigious foreign models – not for science itself as a self-sufficient voyage to the truth but for the nationalist gain, translated into the bureaucratic tongue and adding steam to the administrative reproduction of the national state.

The word “prestige” might be a bit ambivalent in this context. The Bulgarian university institution did not deny the ideas and values of the “European” University. But this kind of debate was conceded to somebody else. The type of reflection of these cultures belongs to measuring up to the Others, rather than to speculations for the ultimate universal foundations, which risk slumping into an abyss (Derrida). In these peripheral situations of institutional borrowing, it is somehow surreptitiously assumed that there is such a thing as a university idea, but it is safeguarded somewhere else, in Berlin, Paris or Oxford – like a golden standard which should not be subject to argument. The problems of legitimacy are basically an alien and lofty thinking matter, stretching beyond what is suited for Bulgarians. At the same time, all the positive well-known results of foreign philosophic reflection upon them are open to the broadest public, including, of course, the Bulgarians. They are notorious and self-evident, and their debate or criticism is displaced outside of the national borders and beyond the local competence of the provincial academic institution. There is only one thing left – the hardest thing to the mind of the founders: the Bulgarian university should simply fulfil its national and practical tasks.
What are, incidentally, the tasks of the university?
The German problem and that of Habermas – that the university core – science – has been transformed into an applicable and instrumental force, and hence has alienated itself from the human values – is not a Bulgarian university problem. In Bulgaria, university and science have always had a lax relationship to practice, technology, production and industry. This became glaringly clear after the demise of socialism, when the ideologically contemplated Big Industry, Big Chemistry, Big Amelioration, etc. fell apart, Big Science and Technology did as well. In the post-communist countries, science could not gain an application, but instead it was left without a function. This seems to pin down the universities even stronger to pure teaching tasks and render them mere assembly lines of ” real knowledge”, achieved somewhere else, in other universities, institutes and laboratories.

But does the assembly task justify the existence of this university nowadays, and does it even deliver it at all? Habermas, following Weber, reminds us that the functions of an institution are not tantamount to the goals and motivations of the people who participate in its processes. We can, however, ask ourselves – is there not a limit to this alienation between institutional functions and the motivation of people functioning within the institution? The problem may be given the following particular form: if we assume that the function of a provincial university (the reason for its existence) is to transmit knowledge, is it not so that the hyper-variety of motivation and the scattering of interest of those performing in our distorted academic situation reaches a point where it would simply inhibit the execution of these functions?

The normal motivation of the participants should be clear: the professors should be willing to teach, in touch with international science, in a situation outlined by the academic autonomy; the students should be striving to accrue knowledge and to be awarded educational grades and qualifications, the university authorities should be able to manage the university without problems, both structurally and financially, and the broader public would like to see the university as an important intellectual benefactor to social progress, directly or by proxy. The Bulgarian situation makes that commonplace motivation look more or less legalistic – the agents of the university situation do not share these targets completely, and quite a few of them do not share them at all. In this country, the above mainstream motivation is doubled by its bizarre enactors, who do not lend themselves to institutional rationalisation. The university supervisors are not eager to improve the managerial and information systems of their institutions because that would render translucent their dubious financial and management dealings. A great deal of professors are not motivated to come into contact with international science because it holds knowledge standards and scales which are incompatible with their totalitarian academic experience. More than a few of the students literally want to buy a diploma rather than attaining knowledge. The list goes on.

We are, therefore, discussing the critical point beyond which the motivation to contradict the institution overrides the motivation to perform within the institution as required by the standards.

An example: The vast number of students is not a result of a sudden fervour for study or of the particular usefulness of academic diplomas in job-finding; the massive student population in Bulgaria is largely unemployment-in-disguise, and hence the attitude of many students is that of future jobless and marginal souls rather than of people in the process of positive educational socialising. Another part, probably the most talented or intelligent ones, are implicitly or outspokenly motivated to emigrate in the future. They regard Bulgarian universities as halfway houses and frequent the same bachelor or masters programmes abroad, which they already have completed in Bulgaria, sending a clear signal that the Bulgarian academic education is not a real one for them.

This somewhat indignant summary is not meant to place me among the choir of morally grouching voices belonging to affected teachers or other members of the public. Once again, I would like to emphasise its theoretical character: the question is – in an environment where motivation is so fragmented and falls far short of the centripetal force of any general concept of the university, are the functions of the university as an institution at all possible? Beneath the normal spectrum of the various educational motivations, the university community in Bulgarian conditions demonstrate a unique blend of short-sightedly commercial, biographically self-guarding, semi-criminal and escapist drives which have nothing to do with the academia per se, even with its traditional Bulgarian patriotic and applied functions. Is it not true that the university’s function as a transmitter of knowledge fails to be emulated and is corrupted? Have the post-socialist universities not been turned into masks of moderately earning enterprises, educational pyramids and hubs of marginal and emigrant energies of youth counter- and sub-cultures in a thwarted marriage with certain academic affectations?

So far we have discussed the university through the prism of the functionalist hypothesis, the extremes of which were rejected by Habermas himself. He did not regard the modern German and European university as purely functional sub-systems reigned by market and bureaucratic rationality. On the contrary, he believes this university is still intertwined with the living world, the living motivation of individuals by three interwoven functions: the educational function (socialisation), the cultural and communication function (transmitting cultural heritage) and the public function (introducing the discussion models of public behaviour). Since the Bulgarian university may not be considered an autonomous institution in the impartial quest for truth, or as an effective transmitter of knowledge – does it not harbour at its core these three functions precisely – socialisation, cultural communication and public discussion?

However, the malfunctioning of both the invisible social structures and the visible links with the living social world in Bulgaria are so serious that the possible roles for the academic institutions in socialising and preserving the cultural heritage, and keeping up the spirit and ethos of independent public discussion, are severely constrained. The university task which the classical German idealism used to call whereas Habermas prefers to call it socialisation is questioned within a society suffering an ordeal in transmitting experience and securing the formative communication between generations. In Bulgaria, as in many other countries of the former socialist block, the accumulation of the socialist experience makes fathers largely irrelevant role models for their kids. After 1989, the brave new world is proving increasingly alien to the older generations: risky entrepreneurship, alternative or even criminal models of success and social acquisition (not by way of education and diplomas from prestigious schools and universities but following the shortcuts of the racketeers, the credit millionaires, organised crime, etc.). The elderly can not handle the demand for financial, tax or legal competence, the mobility, the pace, the uncertainties of life, thinking in terms of personal success and especially the transgressive of the sub-culture and drugs which are specifically aimed at the young. The chasm between the generations in the course of the transition from one civilisation and economic form to another is amplified by the computers, the visual world of Internet and the compulsory command of English. The major cultural codes of experience and competence have altered beyond recognition over the last 10 years. It is hardly a paradox that the youth in Bulgaria have more of a social potential in today’s insecure computerised life than the elderly do.

On the other hand, it is clear that not all the “young” are better equipped for life but only the “winners” are. Those of the young who do not rub off on the quick and ruthless success, have to make do with very few jobs, little perspective, traumatic emigration dreams or, sometimes, the sectarian mysticism. This is a topsy-turvy social model, the adversary poles of which are equally scaring: on one pole are the rich and successful sons helping out their unemployed and useless elderly; on the other – fathers being unable to support their destitute marginalised offspring. This is an obviously unfavourable social and cultural framework for handing on experience, including the academic one. A case in point for us here is that this situation is being reproduced in a specific way within the university itself. There are more than a few cases in Bulgaria where gifted students are more open, or even better informed than their professors: access to Internet, travels, scholarships and specializations provide the younger academics with a number of opportunities, which their older colleagues have never had. On the other hand, the siege mentality gripping the older generation of professors in the fight to preserve their personal and academic power makes most Bulgarian universities hyper-conservative and better equipped to reform in superficial market terms than in terms of curricula, programmes and methods.

The university’s function of preservation of cultural heritage has also seen substantial deterioration. Communism had expropriated the symbolic capital of the nation, and after its collapse the very idea of heritage has seen a number of amendments. The traditionally “high” Bulgarian culture and classic art (nurtured and groomed in the totalitarian crib) completely lost ground under the impact of the creeping sub-cultural revolution of soap operas, pornography and other forms of the mass culture industry. This elevated heritage could not find the bridges to the younger generation which reinvented the radical forms of the anarchic culture, the protest and the mass emigration, somewhat behind schedule. Besides, in postcommunist Bulgaria, what Adorno called and , were not envisaged. The debate around separating the totalitarian past from cultural heritage, what should be preserved and how and what should be re-read, was dwarfed. As a result the “canon” of the cultural and literary tradition was ideologically compromised, petrified and in practice unusable28. From a macro-social point of view, the literary canon currently serves two causes: Firstly, to reproduce the ideologically homogenous “us” of the nation (discriminating against the different cultural experiences of other non-Bulgarian groups29). Secondly, as a reserve for a sponge shadowy economy of education (a cohort of editors, critics, private teachers and private tutoring all hanging on to the ludicrously conservative admission exam to the university). The university cannot have an easy time in transmitting something which is culturally, socially, politically and economically traumatised and which should be subjected – by the university first and foremost! – to a powerful cultural criticism.

To Habermas, the third and the most significant of the university functions was to supply society with models of public communication, to inject it with the argumentation ethos of the academic argument and the acquisition of a well-argued and tolerant consensus. Everyone who is aware of the current state of Bulgarian publicity realises that it is a rather thorny field for tolerant argumentation. Bulgarian media nowadays nurture a ruthless aggression combined with the manipulation of frightful, erotic and transgressive energies: they deploy brutal collective fantasies, powerful non-critical emotional clichés and emblems rather than reason and discussion. This media is more of the Baudrillard type rather than the Habermas one – it gives ground to the libidinous potential of seduction, the sensational stunning, the distressed, disgust, envy, the symbolic outrage over the opponent rather than the rationalising of the communicative behaviour, the choice and the creation of a common civil and political will30. The university style of public speaking has few chances in this media atmosphere.

Therefore the postcommunist reality stifles the framework in which the university could practice these intertwined functions formulated by Habermas – socialisation, cultural communication and public argumentation.

I would not denounce everything that was created by an honest intellectual effort in the Bulgarian universities. Against the odds, they shelter science, the formative transmission of experience, discussion and sometimes even costly research. I hope these processes will eventually take the upper hand. However, they have strangely coalesced with the abnormal phenomena which I already highlighted. If the Bulgarian university keeps on tolerating these pernicious trends, it runs the risk of becoming an institution without (academic) functions, having been created as an institution devoid of fundamental ideas. The university cannot enjoy its emancipation from a post-communist social , where the basic structures of social reproduction are dramatically distorted. It is rather alarming that Bulgarian society can only see the practical side of the university’s problems – personnel, financing, management and demographics. It is turning a blind eye to the profound ambivalence of its values and basic functions. If the academic institution is having a hard time transmitting knowledge in the educational formation of the young, in the cultural and public communication with society, then what is the reason for its existence? In such a situation, the university is in danger of drifting. Deprived of value debates, away from the structures of the life world, irrationalised and hitched even in its applicable functions it can be already dead without being aware of it. Therefore the academic legitimacy of the Bulgarian university is in urgent need of a reviving debate on its most substantial issues – the sooner the better.
However, there is one more issue. The discussion so far may leave the impression that, as though totally immersed in the Bulgarian tradition, the author is bemoaning the lack of a legitimacy debate in the Bulgarian university in year 2000, just as in 1842 Fotinov bemoaned the shortage of journals, asking himself “where is our rhetoric, mathematics, physics, philosophy”, etc., or like Vazov, who, four decades later, in 1883, exclaimed “What have we got – Ours, Own, Eternal?”

It should not be left as matter of lamentation. If this paper comfortably lends itself to being interpreted as inculpating A. T. Ballan or I. Georgov for not being as philosophically insightful as Humboldt, Schelling or Schleiermacher, or as browbeating today’s university thinkers in Bulgaria or Eastern Europe for not being on a par with Lyotard, Rorty or Derrida, then the paper has widely missed its mark. We should not lament our plight, nor should we make ourselves culpable of a neo-self-colonizing manner.

The ambition of this text was to reveal the intrinsic contradictions of the global situation of the university. The university, in its modern form, was based on the idea of truth, on the unity of knowledge and freedom, and on the fundamental principle of reason. And, in the mindset of Enlightenment and Romanticism, “reason”, apart from anything else, implied this “universality” embedded in the university’s name – the universum of knowledge and culture. Yet the university never ceased to produce its non-universal impersonators – the local, provincial universities, springing up in its spit and image, and turning the queries into commonplaces. Contrary to Derrida’s claim that no university was ever known not to be based on the principle of reason, these locals somewhat shun it. Not that they are “irrational” (that the truth, science and rationality are non-essential to them), but reason and truth (as well as their criticism, deconstruction, de-legitimization) only come second, preceded by a quaint alloy of patriotic and application arguments. First and foremost, such universities are “ours”, as opposed to “theirs”, it does not matter if afterwards they shall be declared the “pride” or the “national civilization emblem” of Bulgaria, Iceland or Malaysia. Put in more abstract terms, in the peripheral situation, the university tailored after “civilization standards and models” is not based on the principle of reason but on the principle of identity and emancipation from the Other31. This university is a cultural institution reinforcing the national educational edifice and reproducing national (i.e. local) identities. This, by the way, explains why, in a similar situation, as was rightfully assessed in 1899 in our native history and linguistics university, those subjects were deemed more essential than philosophy.

This is a serious crisis of legitimacy – of the “world” university. How come this university – the cradle of the universality in truth – give rise to non-universal, local identities? What does it mean, that in the periphery the universities emerge not in the glare of philosophical clarity, but in obscurity and “natural incredulity”? If, over there, it is compelling to invoke the sacred grounds, it is hardly necessary to precipitate down the abyss of their (their philosophical reasoning and criticism), but a civilization might just as well do (e.g. the notoriety of the fact that science is autonomous) – what kind of a sign does that set?

I would like to emphasize, for the last time: the situation, as described, is not just a local problem. It is not even simply a problem of post-communist Eastern Europe. The Bulgarian and the Eastern European cases are precedents facing the international academic community and affecting not its critical self-reflection on the groundwork alone, but its very existence. They epitomize the experience of the peripheral, inert university availing itself of, metaphorically speaking, a “parasitic” legitimacy – it keeps rolling on as “ours”, since other places also have universities. It was born as a “calque”, without asking itself about the intellectual depth of its reason since that was inquired elsewhere. It does not go to the trouble of asking itself such questions even when elsewhere the academic legitimacy is called into question or is even scathingly criticised. Thereby, the peripheral university, as are most universities in the world, runs the risk of stunting itself into an inert institution propping up the regional prestige. Adding insult to injury, this may happen at times when the national culture itself is subject to trials nevertheless more destructive than those blighting “truth” and “reason”. This questions the stature and stamina of the whole university network in the whirlwind of our information exchange unsanctioned by a single authority in a world undergoing asymmetric globalisation (in both real and virtual terms). Will the network of universities round the world, deprived of a value basis shared by center and periphery, and being heterogeneous and non-universal up to a point where the perception of their specific problems finds itself in a bottleneck, scattered in a multitude of circumstances and multi-speed modernisation processes; will this whole asymmetric network that we are accustomed to dubbing “academia” despite its variegated composition, will it be an adequate agent of the future global information exchange (for this is today’s name of universality)? How are these heterogeneous corporate isles going to co-exist and legitimise themselves amid the ocean of information available to individual internet surfers? An ocean where – as appears for the time-being, let us be optimistic for a short while, at least – people will be finally liberated from their location and the burden of obsolete identities; an ocean which will probably transform into a new public sphere, a new education, a new selection of cultural heritage, into another kind of socialisation.

These issues are up for debate – and that cannot be just a Bulgarian debate.

  1. This paper was read on the conference dedicated to Jürgen Habermas' Facts and Normativity, which took place in November 1999 in Sofia. I would like to express my gratitude to my Serbian colleague and friend Obrad Savic, who supported my revision of the initial version by sending me copies of papers on the University which were not available in the Bulgarian libraries.
  2. The Principle of Reason. The University in the Eyes of its Pupils in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Literary and Cultural Studies (third edition), edited by Robert Con Davis and Roland Schleifer, New York and London, 1994.
  3. From the vast literature on the American university situation, I have tapped several basic books and magazine issues dedicated to higher education: Tornstein Veblen, The Higher Learning in America 1918, 1993 Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, USA; University for a Changing World. The Role of the University in the Late Twentieth Century. Ed. By Michel D. Stephens and Gordon W. Roderick, Halsten Press Book, NY, 1975; Higher Education, special issue of New Literary History, Vol. 26, Summer 1995, Number 3; The American Academic Profession, special issue of Daedalus Fall 1997, Vol 126, Number 4, The Future of Academic Freedom, ed. By Luis Menand, University of Chicago Press, 1996.
  4. Karl Jaspers, The Idea of the University
  5. All these essays and studies of Habermas are published in his book Kleine politische Schriften, Suhrkamp, F.a.M. 1981 with the exception of the text "Die Idee der Universität ­ Lernprozesse" which can be found in his book Die Idee der Universität. Versuch einer Standortbestimmung, Springer Verlag, Berlin 1988.
  6. Quotation according to the English translation "The Idea of the University - Learning Processes" in The New Conservatism. Cultural Criticism and the Historians' Debate. Jürgen Habermas, edited and translated by Richard Wolin, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusets, 1994, p 101 - 102.
  7. Let me mention just a few - the PHARE programme, the Socrates programme, the National programmes of Sorros foundations as well as the international programmes HESP and the Institute for Educational Policy: the recently started within the stability pact Graz-process; the conferences in Budapest, Liubliana, Warsaw, Sinaia, Sofia; numerous publications of the type Education for Transition. Higher Educational Policy in Central and Eastern Europe. Country Reports, a publication of CEP, in association with the Institute for Wissenschaften von Menschen, Budapest, 1997.
  8. A number of independent researches were carried out with the most fascinating one of them being the paper of Jose Joquim Brunner: Bulgaria. Higher Education: Policy Design, 1999. From the Bulgarian analysis, a special heed should be given to the publications of the Ministry of Education and Science as well as to authors like Boian Petkov, ogdan Bogdanov, Pepka Boiadjieva, Georgy Dimitrov, Patricia Georgieva, Marko Todorov, Dimitar Denkov, etc. See also the book The University Autonomy and the Academic Responsibility, ed. Pepka Boiadjieva, Sofia, 1999.
  9. Newspaper Macedonia, IV, N 29 / 28 February 1870.
  10. State Gazette 63 / 11 June 1887
  11. cited by Ivan Georgov, Review in the Development of the University, Sofia 1929.
  12. Rather indicative that the term tertiary education which in Bulgaria sounds like "superior education" ( in Bulgarian the comparative degree for the adjective "high" - "higher" is identical with the adjective "supreme") was substituted by the only apparently synonymous "higher education" in the wording of the Law of 1894. This replacement seems to indicate that the law-makers were some how abashed by the hidden transcendent character of the "supreme" and therefore opted to replace it with the word higher which only suggests one grade more. In other words, the revision of the Act tends to approximate the university education with "higher" education highlighting its applicable or empirical character.
  13. This is what Schelling had to say in his Lectures upon the Method of the Academic Education (1802): "The gift to perform propounded work in the specialised science (..). relates to the ability to see everything including the specialised knowledge in interrelationship with what is Primary and Unified. Every thought that has not been perceived within the spirit of this unity and totality is inane (...) Only the absolute universal is the source of ideas and ideas are the pith of science. The one who only knows his peculiar academic specialism as a separate one and is incapable of universal in it is not worthy to be a tutor and guardian of science." Dimensions of the University Idea comp. Pepka Boiadjieva, Sofia 1995, page 42.
  14. The term "as yet" is one of the most frequent symptoms of the uncertainty, risk and the provisional character of the whole undertaking of Agura's adn all the ohters' fears of .
  15. Only after the physical and mathematical faculties (1889 - 1890) and the legal faculty (1892 - 1893) were founded - the end of the century saw a fascinating precedent demonstrating the way the Bulgarian professors and academic authorities viewed philosophy and its role. From Schelling's, Humboldt's and Schleiermacher's standpoint this instance would be simultaneously sad, ludicrous and scandalous. It demonstrated vividly how fragile the autonomy was (underpinned by the Act from 1894 on) and simultaneously how philosophy in the Bulgarian university was lightyears away from the privileged vantage point the Prussian reformers wanted to give it. In March 1899 the Ministry of the People's Education attempted to appoint Dr. Krastio Krastev as a philosophy lecturer directly by its already established practice getting around the Academic Board. To the same end, the Ministry even suggested that the Academic Board broaden the subject of the discipline. The proposal was relegated to the history and linguistics faculty and, on 24 March 1899 the Dean reported the Faculty Board decision: "taking into account that much more significant specialities in the faculty are taken on by one teacher alone the faculty finds it inappropriate to broaden the teaching of philosophy. The Academic Board concurs with that view" (Georgov, Ivan, Review in the Development of the University, Sofia 1929, page 42 - 43). The statement should have made the German reformers turn in their graves. Let us just remind ourselves for the sake of contrast of Schleiermacher's words, which were as visionary as they were unrealistic: "the teaching of philosophy is commonly recognised as the basis of all in the university...philosophy is the scientific spirit as a supreme principle and the immediate unity of every kind of knowledge... a reiteration of the already concurred (by the private disciplines) from a superior view point...this is a centre which should confirm the achieved knowledge of nature and the mutual relationship of every kind of knowledge" (Dimensions of the University Idea, comp. Pepka Boiadjieva, Sofia 1995, pages 155 - 156). Throughout German idealism, the philosophical faculty was upheld as the hub of all universities supporting the universal unity - every lecturer had to be rooted into the philosophical faculty. Habermas then proved that the romantic demand was already utopian in its own time in Prussia, let alone in Bulgaria in the 1890's.
  16. Georgov, Ivan, Review in the Development of the University, Sofia 1929, page 18.
  17. Georgov, Ivan, ibid.
  18. Agura, D., "The Supreme School in Sofia", the Bulgarian Review Magazine, year I, 1893, issue 1.
  19. Georgov, Ivan, ibid., page 33.
  20. On the election of the first rector and the competition between Stanimirov and Alexander Teodorov - Ballan rather amusing comparisons could be made between the memories of Georgov (op. cit) and Alexander Teodorov - Ballan in his A Book about Myself, Sofia, 1988.
  21. On the issue of the student disturbances in 1897 see the brochure of the student association "Progress" under the title Towards the History of the Supreme School, 1897, published by "Progress", Sofia.
  22. This is a part of the first declaration of the professorial body called To the Bulgarian Society, dated 10 January 1907. This passage is incidentally one of the few which draw on the link between autonomy, freedom and science in relative detail out of the string of declarations published by the university society in the course of the crisis. The above arguments are reiterated and see some variance but not too many new points to the benefit of legal detail such as criticising the new law were added. Elsewhere, it is mentioned that the act of the government humiliated the moral dignity of the professorial person, a crucial factor in education and that this suppression of science and the free thought will in essence instigate the professors engage in oppositional public and academic conduct and finally that the new law will designate something a university which will not in fact be a university, etc. (All documents are published by Ivan Georgov in his book Review in the Development of the University). Yet in practice a profound reflective discussion of the grounds of the university autonomy and freedom never took place.
  23. Freedom is needed for the impartial non-partisan pursuance of truth protected from empirical government or civil interference.
  24. Parallel to the attempts to win public opinion with both political and legal indictments against the government and with a just defence of the academic interest the polyphony of this text clearly harboured conservative tones and loyalty to authority. It is claimed for instance that by means of its longstanding disciplining of politicised students the Academic Board had even been more consistent in sobering up pork barrel students than the government and society themselves. The professors had even been condemned for braking the students, for being indifferent to social matters, for being retrograde and obscurantists. Thus in this political manifesto the apology of the autonomous science blended in with the claim that it is exactly this pure science especially in country like Bulgaria which has the potential to sober up every kind of extremism and utopian inclinations carried along by the newcomers to the university.
  25. On this issue see the chapter "The Self-Colonised Cultures" from my study The Lists of the Missing in the book The Bulgarian Canon, comp. Alexander Kiosev, ed. B. Penchev, Sofia 1998.
  26. From the appeals of the professors society in January 1907.
  27. Quotations from Agura's article "The Supreme School in Sofia", The Bulgarian Review Magazine, year I, 1893, issue 1. It is fascinating to see the way Agura continues: "we cannot take the objection that science is cosmopolitan and could therefore be scooped from any academic institution. Science itself is virtually cosmopolitan but it is being developed in one individual centre and it is a manifestation of social organism just like any other cultural phenomenon in human kind. Its progress is also due to the relative evolution of individual societies." This part is followed by examples referring to the English, the Romans, the Greeks, etc. - all examples seem to follow a Herderian teleological model of the evolution of individual nations.
  28. On this issue, see The Bulgarian Canon, comp. Alexander Kiossev, ed. Boiko Penchev, Sofia, 1998.
  29. See the article of Boris Nikolov "With Poetry at Politics", The Culture newspaper, December 1999.
  30. On the issue, see my articles "The Silence of the Lambs", "The World of the Wrestlers", Capital and the "Private Life of the Public Language" in Media and Transition, in print.
  31. This argument corresponds with the radical claim of Bill Readings that the university is not founded upon the truth but onto a Herderian notion of culture and nation "The University without a Culture" New Literary History, Vol. 25, Summer, 1995, No 3. Unlike Readings, I believe that both types of legitimacy/illegitimacy coincide yielding what I call the "asymmetry of the university situation".

Published 2 November 2001

Original in English
First published in

Contributed by Critique & Humanism
© Alexander Kiossev

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