Chapter 3 The Czech Question in Its Time

In: Recalling Masaryk’s The Czech Question
Miloš Havelka
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Havelka presents interpretations of the most prominent ideas of Czech politics and political culture in late nineteenth century as presented in three important critical texts from political leaders of that time: T.G. Masaryk’s The Czech Question (accompanied by two shorter texts, Our Present Crisis and Jan Hus), Josef Kaizl’s Czech Thoughts, and Albín Bráf’s Letters of a Political Heretic. These texts also represent alternative approaches to interpreting the relationship between historiography and politics. From the perspective of historical influence, Masaryk’s book had the greatest impact with its formulation of a unifying reformational idea of humanism based on the ‘meaning of Czech history’. The work of Young Czech politician Josef Kaizl arose in direct response to Masaryk’s texts and it clearly anticipated many arguments later voiced by critics of Masaryk’s understanding of Czech history. The gist of Kaizl’s argument consisted in a defence of political liberalism and a related analysis of Masaryk’s alleged underestimation of the constitutional dimension, including lack of understanding of the role of national economy. Also opposing liberalist principles was the ‘Old Czech’ Albín Bráf, for whom the notion of statehood was something more than the sum of its parts. With an emphasis on tradition and the principles of organically arising forms of social and political life, the historization of socio-political problems and a genetic-individual interpretation of individual institutions, norms, and values, Bráf can be interpreted as one of the last authentic Czech political conservatives. These three perspectives have then at various times and in various ways made their way in various forms into the national historiography and the first two continue to do so today.

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Recalling Masaryk’s The Czech Question

Humanity and Politics on the Threshold of the Twenty-First Century

Series:  Value Inquiry Book Series, Volume: 381 and  Central European Value Studies, Volume: 381


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