The Dissident. Seven Readings of “The Power of the Powerless” by Václav Havel

In 1978 Václac Havel wrote his now legendary underground essay on the ”power of the powerless” in the post-totalitarian Soviet bloc. Dedicated to the memory of Czech philosopher Jan Patočka (1907-1977)––like Hável, a member of the Charter 77 human rights movement––the text examines a constellation of concepts that remain crucial for understanding Soviet Eastern Europe specifically and political oppression generally: power, ideology, freedom, responsibility, technological civilization, and the central yet problematic figure of ”the dissident”.
The essay was published as a samizdat along with nine written responses shortly after Hável’s arrestment in 1979. Honoring its enduring importance and the spirit it encouraged, this symposium is devoted to rereading and reassessing Havel’s essay in the light of the present.

The symposium is a collaboration between Södertörn University, Pardubice University (Czech Republic), and Pontificia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), and hosted by Philosophy and the Centre for Baltic and Eastern European Studies (CEBEES) at Södertörn University. Participance is open to all and requires no pre-registration. Contact:

Time: November 21, 2019 (9.30 a.m. – 4.30 p.m.)
Venue: MA 756, Södertörn University, Campus Flemingsberg


9.30 Opening address
9.45 – 10.30 Tomáš Hejduk (Centre for Ethics, Pardubice University)
10.45 – 11.30 Ulrika Björk (Philosophy, Södertörn University)
11.30 – 12.15 Antony Fredriksson (Centre for Ethics, Pardubice University)
Afternoon: Video conference with Pontificia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC-RJ)
13.15-14.00 Marcia Sá Cavalcante Schuback (Philosophy, Södertörn University/PUC-RJ)
14.00 – 14.45 Ondřej Krása (Centre for Ethics, Pardubice)
15.00 – 15.45 Gustav Strandberg (Philosophy, Södertörn University)
15.45 – 16.30 Niklas Forsberg (Centre for Ethics, Pardubice University)
16.45 Reception