The Political Thought of Václav Havel

Philosophical Influences and Contemporary Applications


The book considers Václav Havel’s body of writing as a cohesive whole offering a consistent political philosophy. This bold claim is backed up through a close examination of Havel’s plays, letters, essays and aphorisms. The political philosophy that a close reading of Havel reveals is a liberal one. However, Havel is not the run-of the-mill liberal having influences from the field of phenomenology, Masaryk, Husserl, Levinas Patočka and Heidegger which give him a nuanced view of the self. Havel sees the self as something always being formed. Hence for Havel man has an ability to ‘shake’ his current state and invite transcendence into his life. This agonistic process reveals our responsibility and liberates the self from forces which coerce behaviour.

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Dr Daniel Brennan, PhD (2013), Bond University, is a Senior Teaching Fellow at that University. He has published articles on the thought of Jan Patočka and Vaclav Havel, as well as in the area of political and social philosophy.


Chapter 1. Themes in Havel’s Thought
Chapter 2. The Influence of Jan Patočka
Chapter 3. Further Patočkean Ideas in Havel’s Thought
Chapter 4. Living in Truth as an Existential Concept
Chapter 5. Havel’s Concern for Meaningful Political Discourse
Chapter 6. Václav Havel’s Political Thought as a Liberal Philosophy.
Chapter 7. Havel’s Liberal Agonism
Chapter 8. Conclusion: Havel and the Neoliberal State


Political philosophers interested in liberalism, agonism, political elements of phenomenology and anyone concerned with East and Central European dissidence.