Stephen Holmes and Ivan Krastev argue that illiberal politics in central and eastern Europe should be understood primarily as a reaction to the ‘imperative to imitate’ the West after 1989. But to downplay the ideological substance of the new authoritarianism is reckless in the current situation, responds Aleida Assmann. Recalling the contribution of eastern European dissidents to Europe’s culture of human rights offers a corrective to the damaging myth of the ‘victorious West’.
Cultural anthropologist and Anglicist. Until her retirement, she worked as a Professor of English and General Literature at the University of Konstanz. She mainly researches cultural memory and forgetting. She intervenes in the European debate as a public intellectual, most recently with the book Der europäische Traum. Vier Lehren aus der Geschichte (C.H. Beck 2018). She has been honoured with numerous prizes, including, in 2018, the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade together with Jan Assmann.
The ’68 movement in Germany originated in shifts of culture and lifestyle before turning political, and even violent. The historical contribution of ’68ers is not limited to what happened in the 1960s and 70s, argues Aleida Assmann; in the 1980s it was formative in the emergence of a new Europe.
A year of commemoration
Memories of World War I are being recycled, restaged and transformed for the future. And a common historical frame allowing European nations to remember their stories collectively is within reach: an opportunity we cannot afford to squander, writes Aleida Assmann.