11/26/2019

Václav Benda’s Politics of Shared Responsibility

"While the concept of the “parallel polis” solved the particular problems of fighting a totalitarian government, it also reflects an insight into political life in general. Benda believed that the heart of community consists in sharing a community spirit, one that can bind people together despite disagreements over politics, methods, or even principles. Whether a community be a particular one or the general community of mankind, “the only community that can survive is one with a community spirit sensed as something unified and shared.”

Community for Benda consists more in shared responsibility to one another and to the truth than in shared views. Therefore, the parallel polis aimed to foster human relationships rooted in freedom and truth in opposition to the public culture of lies and manipulation. Benda used this concept also to critique western liberal societies, which, he believed, often undermined their citizens’ sense of a common responsibility by overemphasizing individual freedom. Nevertheless, Benda unambiguously rejected any attempt to equate western liberalism’s depravity with the absolute evil of eastern communism."