Leadership for Social Change | Saint Louis University

The Concept of Post-Totalitarianism

Vaclav Havel served as president in Czechoslovakia from 1989-1993 during one of the most pivotal and consequential time periods in Eastern Europe’s history. Communism, the staple of traditional Eastern European Politics, was crumbling all over Europe. However, the legacy of Vaclav Havel comes not from his work as president, but from his powerful and influential work as a political dissident that played a tremendous role in the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.


The most influential of Havel’s work is his essay, “The Power of the Powerless.” In this document, Havel outlined a new political philosophy which challenged the weaknesses of Communism calling this new system: “Post-Totalitarianism.” He claimed that this system would restore the openness, trust, responsibility, and love that the Communist system historically lacked. This concept centered heavily on the notion that the most effective political structures are small, open, and dynamic. A small…

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