The postsocialist contemporary intervenes, from the historical perspective of Eastern Europe, in a wider conversation about “contemporary art.” It departs from, and revolves around, a concrete case in which a program called “for contemporary art” was assembled on the debris of the Berlin Wall by the Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros. The Soros Centers for Contemporary Art (SCCA) was a network of twenty art centers active during the 1990s in Eastern Europe. The book argues that this program played an important role in the actualization of the paradigm of contemporary art in the former bloc. The main goal of this study, however, is not to recreate the narrative but to take this Soros-funded art infrastructure as a critical point of inquiry in order to engage with key permutations occurring in art during the transition to capitalism. The book argues that with the implementation of Western art institutional models and norms by Soros, and other players after 1989, a radical departure takes place in the art of this region: a departure from an art that (officially at least) provided symbolic empowerment to the masses, toward an art that affirms the interests, needs, desires, and “freedom” of the private individual acting within the boundaries of the bourgeois civil society and the market. The book considers the “postsocialist contemporary” in a broader context of late twentieth-century political, economic, and cultural processes of (neo) liberalization, promoting and encouraging more critical historical materialist examinations of “contemporary art” – the dominant aesthetic paradigm of late-capitalist market democracy.
would be in full accord with Western practices and ideals of the “open society” – the political metaphor which Soros borrowed from KarlPopper's social theories. As discussed in previous chapters, the main postulates outlined in the mission statements of these centers – in their imperative to build an institutional infrastructure for the art of the open society, which is to say contemporary art – amounted to an ideology of postsocialist artistic institutions and practices in the 1990s. But such statements were the fruit of various managerial-bureaucratic narratives
testify to a
much more optimistic view of the abilities of scientific knowledge to inform
The chapter first traces the critique of excessive planning and the propagation of minor experimental interventions through the works of KarlPopper (Popper, 1966) and Donald T. Campbell (Campbell, 1969) in the
1950s and 1960s. It shows that, while they both rejected centralised planning based on some grand omnipotent science of society, both insisted on
the democratic and societal benefits of scientific knowledge. However, the
latter was to be generated by
Herman Bondi, Karl Popper and the making of scientific citizens
Governance through education:
Herman Bondi, KarlPopper and the
making of scientific citizens
‘Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man’, runs
the famous Jesuit adage. The notion that governance is most powerfully exerted at an early stage has long informed scientists’ ambitions for the education of children. The cosmologist Sir Hermann
Bondi was one such scientist, and through his presidency of the
Association for Science Education (ASE) he was able to articulate
and advance his ambitions. Bondi was a disciple of Sir Karl
art in Eastern Europe, using the SCCA's history and activities as a point of empirical reference, must not be in any way confused with right-wing or anti-Semitic attacks on Soros. These attacks are nothing new. Soros has been the object of various conspiracy theories since the 1980s – in Kádár's Hungary, post-Ceaușescu Romania, and Yeltsin's Russia – and his foundations were early forced out of South Africa, China, and Belarus. But whatever criticism may be found, in this book, of Soros or of KarlPopper (Soros's intellectual model) – or of Cold War liberalism, the
experts have scientific knowledge, they have a direct line to the ultimate truth. As KarlPopper once said, science is the pursuit of truth, not the dogmatic certainty that we know the truth. Scientific theories are grounded on the best evidence we hold, and we ought to be prepared to change our mind when new evidence comes in. The moment we think we hold the truth, that we have the last word on an issue, we have betrayed the scientific method. And a few centuries before Popper, the same idea was endorsed by the Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire: ‘Cherish those who
programme. If electors believe that the government has failed to deliver what they expect of it, they can hold it to account by removing it from office at the next general election. Election day is, in the words of philosopher KarlPopper, ‘judgement day’. Electors know who is responsible for public policy – the party (or parties) in government – and can act to reward or punish that body. There is no divided responsibility. The government cannot hive off responsibility for public policy. There is what may be termed core accountability (Norton 2011a ). The House of Lords
Quarterly 61: 4 (1992): 464: as Bouissac suggests, the disciplines are based around their particular ‘forms of ignorance’, each a separate ‘generator of uncertainty’.
12 Wilbert E. Moore and Melvin M. Tumin, ‘Some Social Functions of Ignorance’, American Sociological Review 14: 6 (1949): 788, 795.
13 T.S. Eliot, ‘The Perfect Critic’, in Frank Kermode, ed., Selected Prose of T.S. Eliot (London: Faber and Faber, 1975), p. 55.
14 See KarlPopper, Conjectures and Refutations (London
might be argued that the search for such ‘laws’ is altogether misplaced
– and is even obsolete in the sciences themselves. As Hannah Arendt
(1983, 61) has put it, the concept of laws in the social sciences and
always a metaphor borrowed from nature; and the fact is that this
metaphor no longer convinces us because it has turned out that natural
science can by no means be sure of an unchallengeable rule of law in
Those who (still) entertain the thought that politics can – in due course –
become a science are seemingly forced to agree with Karl
unfavourable social and economic conditions will persist. Even in eastern Europe it seems that
democratization studies have shown an inclination to create their own image of what is happening, so departing
from the evidence of ‘objective reality’ (Lewis).
If the outlook for democratization looks increasingly
insecure, is that a bad omen for studies of democratization?
Are we doomed to come to the view that, the more we
know, the less we think we understand? Critical scrutiny,
adherence to KarlPopper’s injunction, in The Logic of
Scientific Discovery (1934), for social