Paradoxes of Neoliberal Politics in a Post-Communist Society

Event time: 
Wednesday, March 29, 2023 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm
Henry R. Luce Hall (LUCE ), 202 See map
34 Hillhouse Avenue
New Haven, CT 06511
Event description: 

For Eastern European societies in the 1990s, the desire for freedom was the key driving force for the shift towards Western liberal democratic capitalism. The West advocated a swift implementation of neoliberal reforms as the only path to a free and democratic society. However, the Soviet and neoliberal systems turned out to be more in common than their official ideological narratives suggest. The talk will focus on the case study of the post-communist Lithuanian academia. Drawing on historical analysis and study of Lithuanian academics’ narratives on change, it will argue that, since the 1990s, neoliberal politics in Lithuania has tended to exacerbate the problem of illiberalism it promises to solve. The talk will demonstrate that the seemingly antithetical the Soviet and the Western political regimes share illiberal and anti-democratic effects in the existential dimension of political life. Similarly to the Soviet order, albeit more subtly, neoliberalism has tightened its grip on academia and the public intellectual sphere more generally, threatening to fracture the ideas of intellectual freedom, truth, public good, and democratic civil society. Thus, given the complexity of the transformation, Eastern Europe is a ‘microcosm’ of the tensions between neoliberalism and democracy as well as between freedom and control.
Rūta Petkutė is a Joseph P. Kazickas Postdoctoral Associate at the MacMillan Center of Yale University and a researcher at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, Kaunas University of Technology in Lithuania. Her doctoral dissertation in social sciences at Tallinn University, Estonia, was titled “The Instrumentalisation of Academic Lifeworlds, knowledge, and Education: Lithuanian Academics’ responses to the European Higher Education Policy of Curriculum Restructuring” (2022). Her more recent work is at the intersection of the sociology of higher education, political sociology, political anthropology, and the history of ideas. She is working, jointly with a British sociologist Ivor Goodson, on a book project, tentatively titled “Exchanging Tyrannies: Paradoxes of Neoliberalism in a Post-Communist Society”.

Rūta Petkutė, Joseph P. Kazickas Postdoctoral Associate, Yale University