Miloslav (Milan) Petrusek (1936 – 2012)

Milan Petrusek © Filip Handourek | foto HN

Milan Petrusek, a pillar of integrity and a major figure in Czech social science, died last week. In this post, Hana Cervinkova pays tribute to him and to Alena Miltová, his wife. Together, they have been quiet heroes of Czech social science, culture and public life. I have long appreciated their work and benefited from it. It has been a privilege to know them personally. I publish this remembrance with sadness and appreciation. -Jeff

The world of Czech social science is a rather small community concentrated in several academic and research institutions in this country of ten million people. Today’s quality institutions in Prague and Brno are results of the complex process of the post-1989 (re)construction of various disciplines (including sociology, political science, anthropology, philosophy and economics), following their almost total destruction during the Communist rule. While in Poland, for example, a distinct tradition of critical social thought developed despite official restrictions prior to 1989, Czechoslovak social science was subject to all-encompassing censorship that concerned not only indigenous production, but also the prohibition on translations of Western theoretical texts. Leading Czech and Slovak scholars who dared to express critical and independent views were quickly removed from academic and research positions. As a result, the struggle for the (re)construction of the Czech and Slovak social science that began in 1989 was a difficult and somewhat solitary task wrought with many predicaments that characterized academic and scholarly work in this small post-traumatic professional community. Once the borders opened, some (including me) decided to temporarily or permanently emigrate to countries with larger and better established professional milieus. The task of shaping the local tradition was taken up by a few exceptional personalities who dedicated their professional lives to the building of institutions that allowed for the Czech social sciences to grow.

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