Journal of Religious Ethics 22 (1):53 - 74 (1994)

In spite of its collapse, communism was a noble experiment, a serious effort toward erecting a moral society. What ethical insights can be salvaged from its failure? Ernst Troeltsch offers valuable tools for deliberating the meaning of cultural collapse and for regenerating a society which has experienced moral exhaustion. Vaclav Havel offers an immediate analysis of the end of the socialist experiment in Czechoslovakia. My aim here is to reconstruct Troeltsch's systematic ethical reflections and apply them to Havel's writings in order to explore (1) the reciprocity of conscience and cultural values, (2) the perennial threats to the value-generating structures of society, and (3) the means by which a new cultural synthesis is generated. By this means we may deepen our understanding of the social values that enable the moral life to flourish.
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