>Pehe on Klaus as political thinker

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Jiri Pehe (‘The Philosopher in the Castle’, The New Presence 1 April 2004,
www.pehe.cz/clanky/2004/2004-04-01-presence.htm) observes that Klaus’s political thought is a ‘colourful composite of various theories and his own conclusions … the views of an autodidact influenced by the political [and] economic thinking that was then accessible through samizdat publications’. Not altogether true as the Economic and Forecasting Institute had access to Western journals, but probably accurate for Klaus (and Havel and much of the post-89 political class.

Politically, says Pehe, VK is more committed to a utilitarian preference maximization than any strong concept of inalienable human rights (seen as a social construction, although as Pavlik notes VK accepts all the basic right as ‘eternal’).More shrewdly Pehe notes – echoing Pavlik’s on Klaus’s view of the relatiobship between law and economic competition – for Klaus (contra Hayek) democracy (democratic majorities emerging from Schumperian elite competition) is more important than a neutral legal framework guaranteeing freedom above and beyond democracy – no concerns over illiberal democracy here. Klaus’s anti-elitist discourses are aimed at self-appointed elites lacking democratic legitimacy via election, of course.

Klaus, suggestsPehe, sees the national charecter and sovereignty of the state that its role as neutral law-maker and enforcer – national community is seen as main natural legitimate grouping, in his vision and national interests (are thus legitimate. However, notes Pehe he describes as if based on common set of values, rather an open political debate. Pehe quotes ODS’s 2000 Srdce a rozum manifesto – but he is perhaps not altogether fair given VK’s repeated calls for a debate around national interests (with reference to the EU) – although presumably Czech finding their way in the debate were supposed to follow Klaus’s definition centring around defence of national state and its sovereignty as flowing more naturally from traditional definitions of Czech identity – the main political goal and achievement of Czech politics, historically being the Czech(oslovak) state created in 1918.

Pehe argues that Hayek’s view of civil society is that it is welcome as check on the state provided civil society organizationdo not act as economic monopolists and sees echoes of Habermas and ‘deliberative democracy’ in the Masarykian tradition (‘democracy is dialogue’). Klaus perhaps see civil society organisation as interfering in the ‘political market’, which is of a concern in a Hayekian Constitution of Liberty.

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