Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena

Dr Jan Mervart

October 2019 - April 2020
email mervart(at)flu.cas(dot)cz

Jan Mervart works in the Department for the Study of Modern Czech Philosophy, Institute of Philosophy, Czech Academy of Sciences. He received his Ph.D. in history at the University of Hradec Králové. He is predominantly devoted to the modern Czech and Slovak intellectual and cultural history. In his works he has been mostly preoccupied with the role of writers and of the Writers’ Union in the Czechoslovak reform process, with the intellectual ferment of the reform era as well as with Czech and Slovak Marxism and Marxist intellectuals (see his ‘Czechoslovak Marxist humanism and the revolution’ published in Studies of East European Thought). He is a member of the editorial collective of the Prague-based project Contradictions. Journal for Critical Thought.

Research project at the Kolleg

The Dark Side of Post-Stalinist Marxist Humanism

The intellectual history of Post-Stalinism has attracted considerable attention from professional scholars in recent decade/s. While the proposed project rests upon previews endeavours, it also introduces its own perspective on how to cope with the phenomenon of post-Stalinism, which is viewed here predominantly as an era preoccupied with a quest for a new socialist modernity. From this point of departure, the project seeks to analyze humanist Marxist thinking as one of the ideal types of how socialist modernity was envisioned in the post-Stalinist era. Whereas humanist thinking is mostly perceived as an important subversion of Stalinist ideology, which helped to create the vivid atmosphere of the 1960s, culminating in emancipatory visions of 1968, this project wants to go beyond the “golden era” of the sixties. Within the context of an analysis of the post-Stalinist era, it intends to maintain an overview of the further development of Marxist humanist thinking and trace its negative implications, originating already in the 1960s and appearing in the late socialist as well as in the early post-socialist era. The project maps the case of Czechoslovakia, considering it to represent a pattern of general post-Stalinist development in East Central Europe, and simultaneously the notion of Marxist humanism is studied within the comparative context of the region.

Placing the notion of post-Stalinist Marxist humanism within the context of the theory of modernity, the project wishes to explore the relationship between the Marxist humanism of the 1960s and the later nationalist trends advocated by the same thinkers. A systematic analysis of Marxist humanism placed within the context of post-Stalinist modernity in its development, enabling an exposition of its dark side, which is possibly encapsulated already in the original emancipatory visions, represents the main challenge of the project. Formulated in general terms as a problem of the contradictory relationship between the universal and particular aspects of an emancipatory project, the author considers the question to be highly topical today, especially within context of current tension between universalist (pro-European) and particular (national) tendencies within the EU.

Main areas of research

  • Intellectual history
  • History of philosophy
  • History of Czechoslovak party intelligentsia
  • Marxist humanism


Positions and memberships

  • Vice chair of the COST Action CA16213 “New Exploratory Phase in Research on East European Cultures of Dissent” (2017–2019)
  • Member of the Management committee of the Action
  • Co-chair (together with Zsófia Loránd) of WG 2 Culture in the Grey Zone
  • Member, Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES)
  • Member of the Editorial board of the journal Contradictions. A Journal for Critical Thought, Prague
  • Member of the Editorial board of the journal Dějiny - teorie - kritika/History - Theory - Criticism
  • Member of the Czecho-Slovak Committee of Historians


Jan Mervart, Kultura v karanténě. Konsolidace uměleckých svazů v rané normalizaci [Culture in Quarantine: Artists Unions and their Consolidation in the Early Normalization Era] (Prague: Nakladatelství Lidové noviny, 2015).

Jan Mervart, Naděje a iluze: čeští a slovenští spisovatelé v reformním hnutí šedesátých let [Hopes and Illusions: Czech and Slovak Writers in the Reform Movement of the 1960s] (Brno: Host, 2010).

Edited volumes

Joseph Grim Feinberg, Ivan Landa and Jan Mervart, eds, Karel Kosík and Dialectics of the Concrete (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming).

Karel Kosík, Dialektika, kultura a politika. Eseje a články z let 1955–1969, edited by Jan Mervart [Dialectics, Culture and Politics. Essays and Texts from 1955–1969] (Prague: Filosofia 2019).

Ivan Landa and Jan Mervat, eds, Imaginace a forma: mezi estetickým formalismem a filosofií emancipace [Imagination and Form:  Between aesthetic Formalism and the philosophy of Emancipation] (Prague: Filosofia, 2018).

Kamil Činátl, Jan Mervart and Jaroslav Najbrt, eds, Podoby československé normalizace: dějiny v diskuzii [Forms of Czechoslovak Normalization: History in Discussion] (Prague: Nakladatelství Lidové noviny, 2018).

Ivan Landa and Jan Mervart, eds, Proměny marxisticko-křesťanského dialogu v Československu [Metamorphosis of Marxist-Christian Dialogue in Czechoslovakia] (Prague: Filosofia, 2017).



Jan Mervart, ‘Czechoslovak Humanist Marxism and the Revolution’, Studies in East European Thought 69, no. 1 (2017): 111–126.

Radical democrats between reform and revolution, in: Martin Schulze Wessel ed., An Uncertain Spring. The Czechoslovak Reform Movement of 1968. Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2019, 99–116.

Jan Mervart, ‘Karel Kosík jako intelektualista publiczny w okresie reform’, in Filozofia i ruchy społeczne, edited by Katarzyna Bielińska-Kowalewska (Warsaw: Książka i Prasa, 2017), 51–85.

From Communist Reformism to the Socialist International. The Memoirs of Miloš Hájek and Michal Reiman, Socialist History 23, no. 46 (2014): 85–92.



Review of Pavel Kolář, Der Poststalinismus: Ideologie und Utopie einer Epoche, in Hungarian historical review 7, no. 3 (2018): 660–662.

Review of Matěj Spurný, Most do budoucnosti: laboratoř socialistické modernity na severu Čech, in Dějiny - teorie – kritika 15, no. 2 (2018): 328–334.

Scientific Revolutions and Political Attitudes (review of Vítězslav Sommer, Angažované dějepisectví: stranická historiografie mezi stalinismem a reformním komunismem), in Czech Journal of Contemporary History. vol. 2, no. 2 (2014): 185–190.

A full list of publications can be found here