Six Readings of ‘The Power of the Powerless’ by Václav Havel
In 1978 Václav Havel wrote his now legendary underground essay on the “power of the powerless” in the post-totalitarian Soviet bloc. Dedicated to the memory of Czech philosopher Jan Patočka (1907–1977) – like Hável, a member of the Charter 77 human rights movement – the text examines a constellation of concepts that remain crucial for understanding Soviet Eastern Europe specifically and political oppression generally: power, ideology, freedom, responsibility, technological civilization, and the central yet problematic figure of ”the dissident”.
The essay was published as a samizdat along with nine written responses shortly after Hável’s arrestment in 1979. Honoring its enduring importance and the spirit it encouraged, this special issue is devoted to rereading and reassessing Havel’s essay in the light of the present day culture and ethico-political scene.
Excerpts (in pdf):
124 pages, paperback