Vaclav Havel, Jan Patocka: The powerless and the shaken

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This article makes a case for considering Vàclav Havel's political theory of the nature of dissent as more politically grounded than that of his mentor fan Patocka. Against the criticism of Havel, which describes him as a less rigorous repeater of Patocka's ideas, this paper demonstrates how Havel appropriated Patocka's idea that the dissident is, similarly to a World War I trench soldier, fighting in a contemporary front in a demobilized war. However I argue that in Havel's thought, the understanding of dissent takes on a more practical and useful complexion than that of Patocka. This paper will explain and explore Havel's concept of the power of the powerless, which is his key concept for defining the importance of dissidence, arguing that it is an idea that shares many similarities to Patocka's depiction of the power of dissent; however, the power of the powerless is a move past Patocka's thought in its attempt to make a practical liveable dissent.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1917-9685
Pages (from-to)149-168
Number of pages20
JournalSymposium: Canadian Journal of Continental Philosophy / Revue Canadienne de Philosophie Continentale
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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