Human Rights, Neoliberalism, and 1989

Robert Brier
Research Associate, German Historical Institute, Warsaw
Cross-posted from Humanitarianism & Human Rights

“1989” has become shorthand both for the triumph of human rights over state-socialist dictatorship and the subsequent implementation of a “neoliberal” reform agenda. Yet the coalescence of these two phenomena in Eastern Europe twenty-five years ago is quite surprising once we focus on the prehistory of 1989. Following the crooked paths that led to the annus mirabilis is thus a great opportunity to assess the transformation of human rights discourses during the 1980s.

Round Table Talks, Warsaw, Poland, 1989
Round Table Talks, Warsaw, Poland, 1989

Twenty five years ago, on 6 February 1989, representatives of Poland’s government and of the illegal democratic opposition began negotiations on political and economic reforms. Inaugurating their meetings at a round table that had been crafted specifically for this occasion, they set events in motion that became a major catalyst for the collapse of the “Soviet bloc.” Continue reading “Human Rights, Neoliberalism, and 1989”