In This Review

After 1989: Morals, Revolution and Civil Society
After 1989: Morals, Revolution and Civil Society
By Ralf Dahrendorf
St. Martin's Press, 1997, 179 pp

In this collection of lectures delivered from 1990 to 1996, Dahrendorf wrestles with his conflicted hopes for the post-communist societies of Eastern Europe. The 1990-91 lectures, which deal most directly with the subject, are pessimistic, in part because he sees the upheaval as revolutionary, and his theory of revolution has revolutions turning out badly. As he thinks his way through the problem, however, he is led to renewed ruminations about the underpinnings of democracy, why it survives where it does even when the going gets tough, and why, if it is worth its salt, it must retain a validity separate from the economic fortunes of society (although not from issues of economic equity within society). Even when he is wrong, as he appears to be about much of Eastern Europe, the wisdom of his analysis may yet make him right farther eastward. For this reason, as well as the wide-ranging speculation on fundamental political themes, including seasoned views on the role of social science as such, the reader will find the book potent intellectual ginger.