Self-Determination of the Belarusian Intellectual

Social development is impossible without the knowledge, ideas, ideals, projects, utopias and all those things, produced, preserved and transmitted by a specific community of people, who one has recently been calling – increasingly often – intellectuals. When I said «recently», I meant the time when the old Soviet intelligentsia began to surrender their positions in the post-Soviet space. To surrender their positions in the sense that the intelligentsia ceased to produce, preserve and transmit ideas, ideals, knowledge, etc. Besides, they ceased to store and broadcast newly developed ideas and knowledge. The emphasis here should be on the production of ideas, ideals and knowledge.

Historical and Modern Forms of Thinking at the University

The goal of this series of lectures is to present the idea of the University, which leads to the establishment of the modern university in Belarus within a cultural policy programme[1]. Aspects and fragments of this idea are scattered in various texts, but so far have not been gathered into a coherent entity. In this series of lectures, I will try to outline some openings in which the idea of the university needs to be spelt out before its implementation. I see at least four such major openings today: the university as a thought mega-machine; as a factor or instrument of nation-building; as a place for the formation of project and programme elites; and, finally, as an educational institution.

About three generations of techniques working with public conscience and activity in the political framework

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, political analytics and especially international political practice had to rebuild and look for new guidelines, concepts, practices, techniques in the new unipolar world. Nevertheless, the competition of different ideas and the operation of democratization programs in 2013-2014 faced a new reality and confrontation. This refers to the fact that Russia moved to proactive actions claiming to be the center of power and the confrontation has resumed. An important factor in this round of political confrontation was the new practice of political struggles. They can be called consciental war or practices of the struggle for consciousness. Their influence is gaining strength with the development of information technologies and telecommunications. However, the media is only the material or the environment where these practices are successfully launched. The essence (substance) of these practices can be seen only by examining the dynamics of changes in political practices, primarily in the post-Soviet countries.
Below we will describe 3 generations of techniques working with public conscience and activity in the political framework

Practices, norms and ethos of civil society within the university

It would be an exaggeration to say that, in their political struggle and activity, actors of the medieval bourgeois movements or the leaders of the modern bourgeois revolutions, as well as the eighteenth-century enlighteners were guided by university ideals, but the focus on values they appropriated through the universities is obvious. For them, the university was a prototype and a model for building a national community that was to be characterised by: 1) autonomy and self-government; 2) equality of citizens regardless of origin; 3) individual’s value based on their abilities, and 4) cultivation of critical thinking.

Public dialogue

Usually, the dialogue is attributed to an undoubted positive connotation (dialogue is good, this is correct, it is the civilized behaviour) and a certain set of norms of etiquette that outwardly fix the behaviour of people during the dialogue. These etiquette norms include: the sequence of speaking (do not interrupt, speak by turn), the right of everyone to express their position and their opinion, the setup towards respect of interlocutors, the requirement for positions’ argumentation, as well as the minimization of personal emotional assessments and attitudes. These norms and attitudes, having been formed through the years of practice of conducting a dialogue, have become entrenched in the form of etiquette, but they often lose touch with the rational foundations which they have been grounded on. They continue to exist and regulate communication in an emasculated form and often become a means of manipulating and simulating dialogue. Thus, the above-described practices of the Belarusian authorities often use “chattering up” the essence of the issue, when, in accordance with the dialogue etiquette, each participant, regardless of their competence and their statements’ content, he or she is given a word with the condition “not to interrupt” and “let finish”. Thus, politeness begins to replace the principled encounter of different positions.

Organizational-activity games as a method of conflict resolution

In our search for working methods in culture and cultural heritage, a significant place is occupied by studies of axiological, semantic foundations, techniques of reconstruction, and other professional directions, which help us better understand cultural phenomena. However, we all realize more and more now that culture is primarily a zone of social and even political interactions. Understanding that culture can be described as a process of transmitting and implementing norms, ideas, samples, and ideals in a specific historical situation. We know the intenseness and conflict of this sphere. What values and ideals should be and should not be transmitted? What norms and modi operandi should be implemented on the ground? These questions reside not so much in norms, values, and ideas, nor in their depth or aesthetic, substantial qualities, but rather in public dialogue and the coordination of perceptions of various groups.

A society of executives without masters and bosses

Communism has created a PR concept that is very popular and attractive. It incorporates the most attractive and effective slogans, appeals, and memes that communists have carefully selected from other ideological, philosophical systems and scientific theories. That is why communism is the second most successful PR project in human history after Christianity and the apostles’ teaching.
One of the main slogans of communism borrowed from its predecessors is a call for equality. Equality has been a human dream since the dawn of time, and it has driven humankind throughout history. I, too, am an advocate of equality for all people. But I make reservations. For example, “all human beings are equal before the law”! This is also how all humanistic concepts and ideologies relate to the idea of equality – there is always some caveat added: before the law; before God; equality by birth – all people are born free; equality of condition, etc.

Politics: the means or the end

Political analytics and applied political science (when political scientists not only write theoretical articles or give lectures, but participate in the development of programs and act as experts/advisers in the political process, too) can only exist when in a state there exists politics. Such a trite thought per se returns us once again to the question of what politics is. This question has no simple answers within the framework of the applied political knowledge. Simple answers appear when one tries to customize definitions to the realities and conventions of a concrete country; when it is supposed that if there is a state, then there is politics as well, and this politics corresponds to the realities and conditions in this concrete state. “If in Belarus there is a state, then there is politics there, too” – this statement is rather doubtful, although it corresponds to common sense and ordinary reasonableness

Public dialog in Belarus: from grass-roots democracy to civic participation (book)

The book continues the “Belarus for Beginners” series and deals with the problem of organizing political dialog in Belarus. The book studies successively a number of questions which lie in the foundation of this problem: from the differentiation of the notions “people” and “society” — to the specificity of public communication and dialog organization principles.Much… Читать далее Public dialog in Belarus: from grass-roots democracy to civic participation (book)

EDUCATION

Education is a function of society serving reproduction and development of the society itself and social activity systems.
This function is fulfilled through culture transmission and the implementation of cultural norms in changing historical situations, based on the new fabric of social relations, by generations of people that continuously replace each other.
As a function, education is distributed throughout the system of human relations. As an organised process, education is carried out by specialised social institutions. For some institutions, education is the ultimate exhaustive framework for their existence that defines goals, values, subculture and self-identification of people: schooling of all levels, teacher’s profession. The purport of existence of other institutions is not limited to educational function, but without it they are unthinkable: the family, the state, the church. Placing the educational function exclusively in the institutions responsible for its implementation reduces the adaptability and viability of the social system as a whole, limits its development, and can lead to cultural decline, regression and degradation.