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Political Opposition in Theory and Central European Practice


Michal Kubát

This book offers interpretations of different forms of political opposition in political theory and also in the contemporary development of politics and government in Central Europe. The problem is analyzed through a comparative approach. The first part of the book targets the question of definitions and typologies of political opposition, above all, in democratic, but partly also in non-democratic regimes. The second part deals with the question of models of political opposition in Central Europe after the fall of communism in the late twentieth century and in the present.


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I. Introduction to the theory of political opposition 15


15 I. Introduction to the theory of political opposition 1. What is opposition? In the first chapter of his monumental, and today quite classic, work on democracy, the legendary Italian political scientist Giovanni Sartori (1987: 7) writes, “If the term democracy can be used to signify antithetical entities and dignify antithetical practices, then it is a meaningless term. What are we talking about? The answer lies, to begin with, in definition.” Likewise, such an approach must necessarily be adopted towards the concept of opposition, which itself has various meanings leading to important theoretical conse- quences as well as equally significant practical consequences in Central Eu- rope and beyond. 1.1 General foundations The term opposition stems from the Latin word oppositus, which means positioned against, opposite. However, many other general definitions of this word exist: opposite, resistance against something, necessarily publicly ex- pressed (against opinions, acts, politics, etc.), parties or their parts, societal groups standing against the majority, against the ruling party or group, against dominant beliefs. Here the political connotations of the concept are already evident, albeit very generally. Basic encyclopedias define opposition in essentially the same manner. From these very vague definitions, we can infer the true degree of va- riability in ways of perceiving opposition, and we also see that opposition can have a general meaning, applicable to almost anything.1 In the introduc- tion to their classic work on political opposition, well known political scien- tists Ghita Ionescu and Isabel de Madariaga (1972: 14) open their analysis with...

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