Holly Case in Eurozine:
Shortly after Donald Trump’s inauguration, Pankaj Mishra encouraged readers of the New Yorker to turn to the work of a Czech anti-communist dissident, Václav Havel, for guidance in our troubled times. ‘Long before the George W. Bush Administration went to war in Iraq on a false pretext,’ Mishra wrote, ‘Havel identified, in the free as well as the unfree world, “a power grounded in an omnipresent ideological fiction which can rationalize anything without ever having to brush against the truth”.’ According to Havel, Mishra continued
‘ideologies, systems, apparat, bureaucracy, artificial languages and political slogans’ had amassed a uniquely maligned power in the modern world, which pressed upon individuals everywhere, depriving ‘humans – rulers as well as the ruled – of their conscience, of their common sense and natural speech, and thereby, of their actual humanity’.
For Mishra, Havel’s work offers a blueprint for the creation of ‘informed, non-bureaucratic, dynamic, and open communities’ that comprise a polis parallel to a politics saturated with ideology.
Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, also used the occasion of Trump’s victory to disparage the pervasiveness of ‘ideology’. But instead of seeing Trump as a further slide into ideologized politics, Orbán argued that he represents the opposite. ‘The world has always benefited whenever it has managed to release itself from the captivity of currently dominant ideological trends,’ he told reporters. The election ‘gives the rest of the Western world the chance to free itself from the captivity of ideologies, of political correctness, and of modes of thought and expression which are remote from reality: the chance to come back down to earth and see the world as it really is’.