It is well established that significant confusion arises owing to the differences in language and vocabulary between the languages used in various places and societies. This is without taking into consideration the different perspectives associated with common law versus civil legal systems. Even less appreciated is the semantic disconnection that exists between the common and civil law legal systems because of their distinctly different conceptions of the place of morality in the law see especially, H.L.A. Hart, “Positivism & the Separation of Law & Morals,” 71 Harvard L. Rev. 593 (1958) & The Concept of Law (various editions), chapter IX, “Law & Morals.”
Still discourse remains an absolute imperative in the life of nations as well as of individuals plus in legal regimes cf., A.M. Froomkin, “Habermas@Discourse.Net: Toward A Critical Theory Of Cyberspace,” 116 Harvard L.Rev. 749 (2003) whose pertinent points include that “Habermas has also suggested that the forces needed to push public decision-making in the directions advocated by his philosophy are likely to come from a re-energized, activist, engaged citizenry working together to create new small-scale communicative associative institutions that over time either merge into larger ones or at least join forces,” at p. 753.
In the German philosopher Jurgen Habermas’ program of social theory, “[s]ocial order rests on meaning and validity, and on the integrity of a life-world maintained by communication and discourse. It also rests to a degree on the integrating force of instrumental and strategic actions within systems such as markets and administrations. Shared meanings, understandings, and reasons hold society together, along with organized systems of instrumental rationality.” J.G. Finlayson, Habermas: A Very Short Introduction, p. 140 (Oxford, 2005).
An extremely provocative debate is now underway between the American Enterprise Institute scholar Leon Aron, Russian Constitutional Court chairman Valeriy Zorkin, and former USSR general secretary and president Mikhail Gorbachev. It poses numerous striking examples as well as challenges to the participants plus we who diligently follow it.
More specifically, in June, Yale published Aron’s Roads to the Temple that recapitulates in detail his personal experience as well as his careful rereading of the contemporary Russian language accounts of the complex of events surrounding Gorbachev’s experiment with glasnost and the rapid, if largely unanticipated, demise of the USSR.
Then in November, the AEI publish a nine-page screed, supposedly distilling Aron’s book see (http://www.aei.org/outlook/foreign-and-defense-policy/regional/europe/for-dignity-in-democratic-citizenship-russias-unfinished-moral-revolution-and-anti-authoritarian-movements-today/). This got reprinted in at least part in Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Russian Constitutional Court chairman Valeriy Zorkin reacted critically to. Zorkin’s article was entitled “There Is No Morality in Chaos,” which was printed in Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
Because Zorkin’s criticism included the deeds or more specifically the nominal inaction of former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev, Mikhail Sergeyevich also took pen in hand and was published in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta issue of 26 December. Therein Gorbachev reacted to both articles although principally addressing the Russian Constitutional Court chairman. He wrote:
“Esteemed Valeriy Dmitriyevich!
“I laid eyes on your article published in Rossiyskaya Gazeta (11 December 2012) under the headline ‘There Is No Morality in Chaos’ somewhat belatedly. I will not disguise that many things in the text surprised me precisely because they belong to the chairman of the Russian Constitutional Court and was presented in our governmental newspaper.
“Polemicizing with the highly subjective opinions of the American political scientist L. Aron ‘on the moral and personality choice during the construction of the Russian state’ (Nezavisimaya Gazeta dated 28 November 2012), you ascribe, absolutely without foundation and in defiance of generally known historical facts, to Gorbachev’s ‘perestroika’ the absence of a positive moral content. And you ‘indict’ it as ‘a time of troubles;’ as chaos, in which there is no morality.
“As if the first free alternative elections in many decades of Russian history in 1989 and 1990 had never been. Did the glasnost, which allowed people to freely say what they thought, never happen?
“Was wide access not opened for citizens to information, to all the riches of Russian and world literature? Did the freedom of citizens to leave the Motherland and return to it really never appear? And what of the law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations, and the return of places of worship to believers? What about the open and extensive celebration of the 1,000th anniversary of the Christianization of Rus? Why have you forgotten the revival of the rehabilitation of the victims of the Stalinist repressions, which had been suspended, and the release of political prisoners? Not to mention the ending of the Cold War and real steps toward the elimination of the danger of nuclear war and toward arms reduction. Do you not see a “positive moral content” in any of this?
“I can well imagine for whose benefit anti-perestroika calls and commands were made, and for whom they are being revived right now. But I did not think, however, that an author of your level, totally and utterly damning those who ‘eulogize’ Gorbachev’s ‘perestroika,’ would directly couple it, literally separated by a comma, with the crimes and disasters of the nineties and a new ‘perestroika turmoil’ that allegedly has the aim of ‘exacerbating society’s decay.’
“The following passages in your article, for example, sound very strange. ‘Surely it is obvious,’ you write, ‘that the justification of our “perestroika” and of Yeltsin’s firing on his own parliament addresses not the past, but the future? That in this way a new wave of absolute moral negativity toward what is happening right now is being modeled — precisely modeled, and that many years from now, people will call this wave of absolute moral negativism “perestroika-2?” ’ Seeing that all these disasters, to judge from your article, are extolled and approved of by L.Aron, it turns out that he and his ilk are drawing chaos, amorality, and turmoil on us today too. One so wishes to shout ‘Murder!’ and to erect a new iron curtain.
“But I am convinced, however, that it is far more promising right now to purge and renew our authorities, as was recently said from the highest Kremlin podium.
“Perestroika moods and movements arise not so much at the behest of “troublemakers” as from defending the political system and the ruling elite against the demands of social development and against the growth of the population’s civil consciousness. Not to see the logical coming to a head of civil protest in conditions of stagnation and to reduce matters to the moral and legal ‘immaturity’ of the leaders of their ‘exigent fellow citizens’ is dangerous shortsightedness and a profound error. In that case, we really can expect dramatic upheavals and revolutions.
“As for the assessments of Gorbachev’s ‘perestroika’ made in your article upon chaos in which there is no morality, for the sake of objectivity I will permit myself to cite other data and acknowledgements. Their source is a government television program addressed to me. Here is the text: ‘Esteemed Mikhail Sergeyevich!
‘Please accept my cordial congratulations on the occasion of your 75th birthday. Everyone knows how much effort you asserted to see that our country made a historic turn toward democratic reforms, the emergence of the civil society, and the construction of a rule-of-law state.
‘With all my heart, I wish you good health, inexhaustible optimism, and faith in the future. I wish you success in all your enterprises and happiness and prosperity to you and your nearest and dearest.
‘(Signed) Chairman of the Russian Federation Constitutional Court
‘V.D. Zorkin, 2 March 2006’
“What has prompted you to change your views and assessments so abruptly and so diametrically? Perhaps it is the fact that in recent years I have begun to deliver criticism of the ruling party, which embodies the worst bureaucratic features of the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) and has turned into a mechanism for preserving a monopoly on power and a machine for mindlessly rubber-stamping any decisions and commands handed down from above.”
We all must think deeply for ourselves on these and related questions plus stay “tuned” to how this important discourse continues to be played-out!