Featured People: Ivan Krastev

Ivan Krastev has given an introduction on 26 February during the Conflicting Memories: Ukraine event at Castrum Peregrini in Amsterdam, with contributions by Yevhen Hlibovitsky (Pro Mova, Lviv), Mykhailo Glubokyi (Izolyatsia, Platform for Cultural Initiatives), and Vasyl Cherepanyn (2015 ECF Princess Margriet Award for Culture laureate Visual Culture Research Centre, Kiev). 

In this frame, Krastev has contributed to a few Dutch media to give his perspective on the Ukrainian conflict. 

  • He has written an opinion piece in Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant: "Duurzame oplossing is verder weg dan ooit" (A sustainable solution is further away than ever): read online - in Dutch.
  • As well as an article in 360 Magazine "Rusland, China en de toekomst van Europa" (Russia, China and the future of Europe): read online or download PDF - in Dutch.  
Photo ©Marcin Kalinski/PAP

Photo ©Marcin Kalinski/PAP

In his work, Bulgarian political scientist Ivan Krastev focuses on the numerous challenges the European community faces, especially in Eastern Europe. In his analyses on the interaction between liberalism and democracy, Krastev explores the potential limits and promises of a democratic society given the growing mistrust against institutions on local, national and supranational levels.

Krastev takes into account the range of social, economical and political upheavals of the tumultuous second half of the 20th century, including the social and cultural movements in Western Europe in the 60’s, the rise of neoliberal policies in the 80’s and the end of the Cold War leading to a period of violent change in Central Europe. He considers these movements with the added perspective of the new media revolution and the advances in neuroscience that was instrumental in transforming our understanding of communications on all scales.

According to these series of developments, Krastev has argued that although individuals and communities are more interconnected than ever, the mistrust towards elites and institutions have also become increasingly prevalent and in his work, he explores the impact these developments have had on the possibilities of democratic rule. Applying his incisive perspective on recent events, in a January 2015 opinion piece on Kyiv Post titled “The Balkans are the Soft Underbelly of Europe” Krastev argued that "a controlled crisis would give Russia bargaining tools and distract from Ukraine".

To learn more about Krastev's work, you can listen to a 2014 lecture offered by the Institute for Human Sciences where Krastev discusses "the Dilemmas of Protest Politics", arguing that the political protests that enveloped more than 70 countries between 2009 and 2014  were “movements of mistrust” that "do not claim power and do not offer political alternative to the status quo but they represent an effective strategy of citizen empowerment in the age of globalisation when the power of citizens derives mostly from their ability to disrupt" (IWM Website). 

Also in his 2012 TED talk titled "Can Democracy Exist Without Trust?", Krastev argues that "the more we know about how democracy works — through government transparency, better media coverage, even new insights about our brains — the less we trust democracy itself. Yet it's still, arguably, the best system of government available." Watch the talk below.

Krastev is chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia, and permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna (IWM).

His latest books (in English) are Democracy Disrupted (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014) and, In Mistrust We Trust: Can Democracy Survive When We Don't Trust Our Leaders (TED Books, 2013).