Parallel Polis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The political-social concept Parallel Polis was created by Czech political thinker and dissident Vaclav Benda in connection with movement Charter 77. In addition to other philosophers, Benda sought a theoretical grasp of the social events in the circles of dissents. The so-called alternative culture or underground was described in the text Parallel Polis in 1978 for the first time. As a political scientist, Benda noticed the emergence of a new social structure which was born in artistic and intellectual circles as a tool to escape the totalitarian communist regime. He detected the following basic pillars of this new "field":

1. constant monitoring and verification of the extent of civic rights and freedoms which the State has a tendency to restrict. Parallel Polis consists of people who actively advocate for, and protect their rights.

2. parallel "alternative" culture / underground culture is independent and are various spheres of art which are operated and developed without permission and support from the public authorities.

3. parallel education and science, which represent the realization of the right of free education and the development of scientific research (residential seminars, various educational societies, academies etc.)

4. parallel informational system as an expression of the right of free dissemination of information (samizdat publishing, unofficial magazines, collections etc.)

5. parallel economy: "political power considers this the area as a critical resource for arbitrary control of citizens and strictly regulates it at the same time". Economy of dissence was based on reciprocity and trust in the individual person. It was a natural germ of a reputational principle and the search for the exchange resources that are not dependent on control of centralized monetary tools.

6. creation of the parallel political structures and promoting their development. The alternative political structures have to be incubated in the environment of the Parallel Polis and develop into such a functional form that they will be able to replace the ruling authoritarian regime.

7. parallel foreign policy has to be an instrument of the parallel society for the stabilization and the grounding of the movement in the international context and the search for potential financial and mental resources.

These patterns of the parallel structure are not a closed set, on the contrary, they should occur more on all fronts of the resistance against the authoritarian State. The aim of the Parallel Polis, according to Vaclav Havel, Ivan Martin Jirous, Milan Šimečky and other dissents, who discussed the concept, [2] should be a so-called independent society. A society that is not oppressed by laws and the decisions of the representatives of the public authorities. A society that is based on its own values. Values which are not forced upon by the central authorities. You could even say, that "Parallel Polis" today does not represent a "dissident world" but the world of persuasions and private interests of the society as a whole. On one hand, "Parallel Polis" gives to the totalitarian authorities what it wants, but at the same time does everything it wants and has nothing in common with the authorities.

After the revolution in 1989, nobody paid too much attention to this concept, because it was ahead of its time, but nowadays the concept is relevant, because of the increased activities in the field of civil rights & the way the authoritarian state has been suppressed.

The seminal idea received great attention in the dissident community in Czechoslovakia and in western political circles. It was, however, never put into practice. With the arrival of the Velvet Revolution in 1990, the idea seemed irrelevant.[citation needed]

It has since been revived by a group of scholars who originally met at the University of Washington but who now work at other academic institutions.[1] Their thinking posits that Benda's idea is now being practiced on the Internet which more easily facilitates parallel institutions. Since 2014, a physical space inspired by the idea and named after it exists in Prague's Holešovice district.[2][3]


  1. ^ Lagos, Taso; Ted M. Coopman; Jonathan Tomhave (May 22, 2013). ""Parallel poleis": Towards a theoretical framework of the modern public sphere, civic engagement and the structural advantages of the internet to foster and maintain parallel socio-political institutions". New Media & Society. doi:10.1177/1461444813487953. 
  2. ^ Cuthbertson, Anthony (2014-11-03). "World's First #Bitcoin Only Café Launches in Prague @Paralelni_polis #hackers". International Business Times UK. Retrieved 2016-11-30. 
  3. ^ Ševčík, Pavel. "Paralelni Polis - Paralelní Polis - Paralelní Polis". Retrieved 2016-11-30. 

See also[edit]