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The rise of the NGOs in recent years has raised various new problems, most pressingly that of the “democratisation paradox”: Whilst the NGOs ultimate aim is to promote democratic structures in respective countries, their own structures remain relatively unaccountable and undemocratic. Other questions concern the sharing of power between NGOs and democratically elected chambers and the influence NGOs are able to exert over them. Claus Leggewie looks at the complex mechanisms involved and proposes ways out of the legitimation crisis.

The participation of the author in a symposium on literature and the media, organized by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute (Polish equivalent of the Cervantes Institute) has inspired this contribution to the eternal debate about criticism. In it, Mihály Dés reexamines the role of the critic and of literary criticism, a role, he argues, that remains as important as ever.

At the recent NATO summit, several countries – including Slovakia and the Czech Republic – were invited to join. Martin Simecka has observed the action behind the scenes of the official programme.

The dilemma of Europe

An attempt to speak about freedom and its relationship to legitimacy

The question of the legitimacy of the European institutions remains an unanswered problem. Frantisek Sebej argues from the viewpoint of the Slovak Republic that the EU – for its own good – should not gain in political strength before questions of devolvement of power between nation states and EU institutions have been adequately addressed.

Eurolocal perspectives towards the EU

Imagining the European Union as a nation-state

This text, first published in 2002, describes how in Bulgaria, the EU has replaced the nation state as a symbol of authority. Even local history and culture is being embedded and rewritten in the context of European cultural history. Nevertheless, regional identity won’t get lost, argues the author, since regions “are a configuration of different liminalities enveloping spatial zones of different sizes that overlap and accrue, providing different options.”

It is widely recognised that the international labour movement is in profound crisis. Most trade unions seem to be stuck in a nostalgic, ideological past without realising the need for more networking and dialogue in the global and neo-liberal world order of today. Peter Waterman analyses the failings of the past and proposes changes for the future.

Richard Hyman discusses the concept of “solidarities” with regard to trade unions. Once the bastion of “solidarity” for the workers’ collective good, they too have to adopt to changes in the workplace, shifting alliances and new realities. As the traditional models of work (and workers) disappear, how can trade unions adopt and what changes do they need to implement?

The Myth of Two Ukraines

A Commentary on Mykola Riabchuk's "Ukraine: One State, two Countries"?

Most intellectuals agree that Ukraine is dramatically polarized along an East-West axis. The differences manifest themselves in linguistic differences and cultural orientation, especially however in different interpretations of the national history. How can this split be overcome in order to avoid a drifting apart between the ‘europeanized’ West and the more ‘russified’ East?

Why Ukrainians Are Ukrainians

A Commentary on Mykola Riabchuk's "Ukraine: One State, two Countries"?

Roman Szporluk comments in this text on Mykola Riabchuk’s concept of ‘ambivalence’ in the Ukraine. The divide betweeen Western and Eastern Ukraine and the resulting ‘ambivalence’ have to be understood in more historical terms: Ukraine has only existed as a political entity since 1991 in contrast to other post – Soviet countries.Therefore, nation building and the emergence of a civil society will take more time.

Political ambivalence as a socio-political phenomenon characterizes virtually every post-communist country but especially the Ukraine. Here, the country’s regional, cultural and linguistic discrepancies and the atomizing impact of Soviet totalitarianism on Ukrainian society serve to explain the deep socio-political rifts within. Mykola Riabchuk argues that the post-Soviet elite currently in power cunningly uses this situation for its political survival. Will the Ukraine be able to overcome this ambivalence and usher into an era of more democratic plurality and subsequent unity?

Sergei Parkhomenko argues that a new middle class is emerging in Russia but its definition depends on much more than just economic factors. A changing self-perception plays a vital part in reshaping the economic and social structures of the Soviet Union. How will this affect the democratisation of the Russian society?

Maya Turovskaya examines what constituted the “Soviet middle class’s survival kit” in the Soviet Union: In a society in which even basic commodities had to secured through a series of complex and lengthy exchanges, not luxury goods but the enjoyment of culture was at the core of the middle class identity.

This article investigates the point made my Maya Turovskaya in her article “The Soviet Middle Class”. Frumkina argues that while culture was a central concern, cultural status could not necessarily be conversted into commodities and services.

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