Normality and Normalization alexander kiossev

“Normal” is one of those words that seem not to need a definition; its meaning appears self-evident. Besides, because of the enormous flexibility of its usages, the conditions for a definition—conceptual strictness and clear semantic articulation—are hardly achievable: an everyday routine is “normal,” but what, precisely, is “everyday routine”? An everyday routine in Rome differs considerably from one in an African village, which in turn differs from the everyday routine in Valparaiso. “This is normal for Lebanon,” said a Beirut taxi driver interviewed on CNN morning news on September 21, 2007. He was referring to the assassination of a member of parliament.


At the beginning of the transitional period in Eastern Europe, “normality” was a kind of democratic daydream: the program of overcoming the communist legacy and becoming a “normal state” found broad political consensus. Everywhere in post-Cold-War Europe, philosophers and journalists were aware of the crucial social energy of the word: “‘Revolution to normality’ is the crucial metaphor of 1989.”1 Conservatives even spoke about the “counterrevolution of normality.”

Twenty years later, when “normalization” has come to seem a fact, questions need to be asked. Why was the word “normal” so close to the hearts of Eastern Europeans? How does its meaning in the context of Eastern European transition compare to other historical usages of the word? Were there any hidden contradictions in this “normalization” program? A conceptual history (Begriffsgeschichte)2 of the words “normal” and “normality” is one possible tool for answering such questions.


It is remarkable that the Latin words “norm” and “normal” are present in all three major European language groups: Germanic, Roman, and Slavic. “Normal” is used even in Hungarian and Finnish, which belong to the Finno-Ugric family, a rare, non-European language family. According to dictionaries, these words penetrated European languages at around the same time—roughly speaking, between 1810 (the first rare usages) and 1850 (common usage).3

The morphological productivity of the root morpheme “norm” is remarkable: one can find derivatives such as “normality,” “normative,” “normal,” “normalize,” and “normalizer” in all three major European language groups. Clearly, this productivity is a symptom of the proliferation of meanings, semantic nuances, and metaphors: “norm,” “normal,” and their derivates seem to be “transferable” to many different regions of life and society. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the “norm” morpheme has permeated many fields and their jargons. According to the OED,4 “normal” has specialized meanings in grammar, pedagogy, geometry, physics, chemistry, metallurgy, meteorology, geology, statistics, and even botany, where one speaks of “normal forests” (in which all ages of all classes of trees occupy equal areas); it also operates, of course, in pathology and psychiatry.

Yet the semantic stability of the term’s meaning is no less remarkable. Along with its specialized meanings, old lexicons display four major meanings of “normal” in everyday speech:

– obeying the norm, following a rule, regular; – habitual, frequent, usual, ordinary, moderate; – standard, not deviating from; – sane, healthy.5

Contemporary lexicons repeat this semantic structure almost unchanged. The electronic thesaurus of the 2003 Word Office package, for example, lists the following synonyms for “normal”: usual; standard; regular; ordinary; typical; customary; common; average; natural; routine; conventional; antonym: abnormal. In this list, normative, descriptive, statistical-procedural, and “biological” semantic nuances coexist peacefully, not bothered by possible contradictions. The word “normal” is, in fact, an eclectic semantic knot, yet this eclecticism is hidden behind its “self‑evidence—behind its “normality.”


Despite this stability, one can notice a slow semantic shift in the meaning of “normal.” In contemporary lexicons, the normative meaning of “normal” (“obeying a norm,” “following a rule”) makes way for dominant descriptive meanings such as “usual,” “ordinary,” “typical,” “customary,” “common,” and “average.” Moreover, in meanings such as “standard” and “regular,” normative nuances are weak: these definitions imply technical procedures for measuring and ordering rather than moral or religious norms. It is as if the “norm” in the “normal” is gradually disappearing.6


Did the words “normal” and “normality” alter the “conceptual limits”7 of European populations between 1810 and 1850? I believe it is highly probable that the word “normal” and its derivates contributed to a longue durée process—the ascendance of the new moral order.8 “God-given”9 virtues, laws, and decrees were gradually replaced by a dominant sociological imagination operating with overall trends and “statistical” norms. This meant replacing the Christian moral notion of a pious life with conformity to “typical,”10 “normal,” mass behavior; divine normative guidelines were replaced with worldly, descriptive ones.

What is remarkable is that these lexical changes occurred simultaneously with the processes of the industrial revolution, technologization, bureaucratization, and the power transformations in modern European societies. The philosophical and historical oeuvre of Michel Foucault pays special attention to this far-reaching shift of power from the sovereignty of the monarch to an anonymous network of technological and institutional micropowers designed to intervene in the most intimate spaces of individuals. The population policy of individual subjectification was essentially a process of disciplining and “normalization.” The latter term designates in Foucault’s texts routine institutional practices of classification and spatialization, along with systematic sanctions, repetitive exercises, control over deviations, and taming of “normal” bodies. All these practices presuppose a rationally regulated, taxonomic field of differentiation, in which “normal subjects” and healthy populations were located (or rather, produced or “disciplined”). The field had its natural limits: “deviations” from “normality,” and beyond them, the “abnormal.”11 In a nutshell, the conceptual revolution that took place between the end of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century consisted in the silent replacement of concepts such as “sin and virtue” with concepts such as “normality and deviation.”


Yet, the words “normal” and “normality” (as well as their antonyms—“abnormal” and “deviation”) did not reveal the real micropower mechanisms of this process. Rather, they made it invisible. “Stronger” modern nuances such as “discipline,” “repression,” “power,” and “administrative classification” were screened out of the semantic field of the words “normal” and “normality,” which presented imposed norms, as well as repressive and productive normalization technologies, as something they were not: routine, widespread, automatic, usual, average. In other words, “normal” and “normality” projected onto new processes old (even ancient) images of conformity: since the moment of its penetration in modern European languages, one of the major meanings of “normal” has always been the archaic “as all people usually do.”

Another semantic feature of “normal”—the nuance “natural”—also contributed to this invisibility. In the mechanistic and positivist worldview of the 19th century, nature was no longer the divine creation but a self-sufficient, all-encompassing entity, with regularities and “laws” of its own. By the 19th century, a long tradition of “nature” and “natural” already existed—let us mention in passing “human nature,” “the natural condition of man,” “natural law,” and other philosophical slogans of the 17th and 18th centuries. Thus, the biological metaphor “natural” designated a kind of anonymous, indisputable status quo, invested with spontaneous energies and a self-sufficient (immanent, though not transcendent) order of life. The “taming” of modern bodies, the construction of subjects and populations, was hidden behind images of the usual, the normal, and the natural: the process became unproblematic and self-evident. The new verbal fashion of “normal” and “normality” hid the technological and coercive aspects of the very process (normalization) it described.


Given these lexicographical, pragmatic, semantic, and contextual details, one can argue that between 1810 and 1850, a kind of conceptual colonization took place in Europe. The words “normal” and “normality” (along with their countless morphological derivates) conquered the specialist fields of science and technology as well as everyday life: the aggressive, “self-evident” word family penetrated language barriers, fighting purisms, professional jargon, and common habits, and changing the horizon of expectations and the conceptual limits of mass behavior. It introduced a major principle of modernity: the conceptual binary “normal/deviation.” “Normal” becomes a designation for the internalized, routine, self-evident modern order, a designation that conceals its disciplinary and technological character. This order was mixed and identified with “nature” (the best example is automatic, “natural” behavior in front of traffic lights). With the very same conceptual gesture, “normality” condemns “others” (deviants, the abnormal, those beyond the limits of normality) to silence, making them the objectified subjects of legitimate biopolitics and normalization procedures.

This self-evident ideology of normality was so powerful that almost a century elapsed before it could be questioned in the works of Georges Canguilhem12 and Michel Foucault.13 Another challenge came—though from a different perspective—with Hannah Arendt’s famous idea of the “banality of evil” as the source of the greatest crimes of the 20th century,14 a powerful philosophical attack against the “normality” of the average, disciplined person.


With this preliminary analysis completed, we can return to the contemporary usages of “normal” and the Eastern European “revolution to normality.” I will begin by listing some of the Eastern European usages of “normal” and “normality” in the last 30 to 40 years.

During the 1960s and 1970s, a political process was put in motion by the Soviet Union and the US known as “cold normalization.” This label designated the political will to avoid the extremes of the Cold War and to “normalize” relations between the two blocs. Interestingly, this meaning of “normal” and “normalization” was almost completely forgotten after 1989.

At the beginning of the transition there were some specific German usages of the word normal. The program of Normalisierung undertaken by German politicians was in fact post-Cold-War political and military strategy—it meant the refusal of the German Sonderweg and Germany’s accession into the family of “normal nations” (i.e., major powers).15

There were other meanings of “normal” that went far beyond the specificity of the German case. One interpretation of the “back to normality” slogan that spread throughout all postsocialist countries was restoration of continuity with the “sovereign” national statehood of the interwar period.16 In many national public debates, the socialist period was presented as a distortion of historical temporality and a painful break in continuity: its restoration was dreamt of in the Czech Republic, the Baltic republics,17 Poland, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Romania. This restorative impulse also legitimized the restitution of parties, newspapers, organizations and, most importantly, property in all Eastern European countries.

The notion of normalization-as-continuity often accompanied the political program of normalization as “return to Europe,” of a restoration of spatial continuity, of “Europe as a whole.” For several years, the name of the European continent entered into a strange synonymy with the words “normal” and “normality—as one German journalist wrote in 1990, a German “return to Europe proved simultaneously to be a return to European normality.”18

In the transitional chaos and the general crisis of orientation experienced by many Eastern Europeans, the words “normal” and “normality” assumed another meaning, too. There was talk of the “normal” (in other words, “desirable”) functioning of institutions such as the rule of law, social order, social sectors such as the judiciary, the police force, the economy, banking, industry, agriculture, sport, and so on. In short, of a “normal state” that fulfilled its official duties toward its citizens. That implied that the contemporary situation was perceived as painfully “abnormal” and “normality” was invested in the foundational values of liberal democracy: in the early years of transition, “return to normality” meant “return to the initial social contract” and the naive, altruistic celebration of fundamental modern ideas such as freedom, solidarity, truth, and justice. This idealistic discourse claimed as “normal” primary sociability itself—the communal self-organization of human beings, created spontaneously by the “normal drive of man to live in a democracy.” In the period from 1989 to 1992­–1993 the slogan “back to normality” meant no less than “back to the original and natural (democratic) condition of man.” It starts sounding like a forgotten quote from Rousseau and moves dangerously close to intellectual banality.19

At this point it is worth briefly comparing Eastern European with Western European or North American usages of the words “normal” and “normality.” British sociologist Elizabeth Shove20 has argued that the social construction of normality is a construction of “a different sort of indoor environment—a process in which scientific and commercial interests literally construct normality—building conditions and conventions at one and the same time.”21 According to Shove, the major features of the constructed normality of consumption are cleanliness, comfort, convenience, and relaxation (her preferred example is of an air-conditioned house that forms its occupants’ habits). In this “normal,” comfortable context, people have their rationales and ways of reasoning—and even their legitimizing discourses. According to Shove, the “evolving of services [ … ] is a process central to the reproduction of ‘normality.’”22

This example reveals a major difference from Eastern European usages. On the one hand, all Eastern European usages listed above, are—unlike the British case—public, not private. The metaphor “normal” was used in the discourses of the Velvet Revolutions to describe and elucidate social and political processes, not “indoor environments.” On the other hand, there was some truth in the familiar accusation that the Eastern European Velvet Revolutions were driven by consumerist motives—by the individual utopias consisting of the same “normal” luxury described by Shove. In Bulgaria, the common expressions “to live normally” or “to live like a normal person” were interchangeable with the strange expression “to live like a white man,” loading consumerist “normality” with racist and colonial nuances.

This seeming contradiction and the peculiar interplay between private and public, between the egoistic and the altruistic senses of longing for normality, can be explained with the help of an interpretation of the phenomenon known as “imaginary consumption.” In “Re-constructing the normal: Identity and the consumption of Western goods in Estonia,”23 Sigrid Rausing argues that in the early years of the Estonian transition, the consumption of expensive Western goods was far beyond what the average Estonian could afford; the attraction of these goods was connected to the intrinsic “normality” and to the “normal” and “Nordic” Estonian identity24 projected onto them, which had no relationship to their affordability. The imaginary identification with the desirable Estonian identity and the imaginary “staging”25 of belonging to Europe through the consumption of Western commodities/signs comes to the fore, while the real, routine habits of “normal” consumption and air-conditioned existence are almost entirely absent. The balance between “normal reality” and “imagined normality” is reversed. The consumption of expensive goods is by no means the simple and rational satisfaction of egoistic needs: it is the irrational satisfaction of (egoistic) dreams which imply an identity model, an ideal, normative world (called oxymoronically “normal”) identified with the West.

Earlier, I argued that in the Western European history of the terms, the normative moment slowly faded away to make way for routine, procedural, regular, and “indoor” nuances. In contrast, in the early transitional years in Eastern Europe, it was exactly the “normative” nuances that were heavily stressed. There was a serious dissimilarity between “Eastern” and “Western” usages: unlike the pale, disappearing norm in Western usages, the Eastern European accent on the normative dimension was self‑conscious and categorical, sometimes even imperative.

This “longing for the normal” made the very Eastern European reality abnormal.26 Postsocialist Estonians (and Bulgarians, Serbians, Hungarians, etc.) were deeply concerned that they themselves were “deviations,” postcommunist mutants.27 The rhetoric of moral disgust (widespread in Eastern Europe at that time) demonstrated that the moral norm coincided paradoxically with infantile fears (“we are not normal, we are not white”), desires (“we wish were different, white, European”) and, most importantly, repulsion (“we are Negroes, we are mutants, we are absurd”). “Normal” and “normality” proved not only to be morally normative, but were also invested with a great and contradictory emotional burden: longing, fear, and repulsion. Moreover, it was impossible to “normalize” their usages, to use them as automatic, neutral, and routine labels of routine and comfortable situations. The word “normal” still “inspires” or “hurts” in Eastern Europe (or both at the same time).

“Normality” has replaced the previous legitimizing utopia (the socialist “bright future”); it is a backward looking, antiutopian retro-utopia in the age of the loss of transcendence.28 “Normality” rejected social engineering, cruel historical collisions, and bloody experiments conducted by a demiurgic state, yet expressed the same infantile desire for happiness—in the “moderate” form of comfort, cleanliness, relaxation, and recognition.


In recent years, with the accession of Eastern European countries to the European Union, a new transformation occurred in the utopia of normality. The postsocialist longing for normality encountered not the Europe it had imagined, but the real Euro-bureaucratic procedures of accession: the harmonization of national judicial systems with European law, administrative normativization and standardization of almost every single sphere of social reality; negotiations with the EU about economics, energy, agriculture, industry, ecology, fiscal politics, finances, quality of goods, telecommunications, social policy, health, education, fishing policy, and so on. The major EU directives clearly stated that the technical standards, quality certificates, and metrological definitions of all commodities were to be governed by legislation set up at the European level. The uneasy, sometimes painful implementation process was scrupulously controlled by new types of government actors—commissions, Euro-commissioners, inspectors, European experts, external observers, auditors, and so on. Sanctions for not fulfilling the accepted duties were severe.

At a practical level, the imposition of all-encompassing standardization and regulation policies was little different from the population policies of the 18th and 19th centuries described by Foucault. The enlarged European Union created a space for institutional practices of classification, codification, calculation, mapping, control, and neutralization of deviant products and practices. Unlike the governments of the 18th century, which openly pursued “happiness” for the masses, the EU’s aims, along with the mobility of people, capitals, commodities, and services, are to achieve normal and healthy populations, an unpolluted environment, and improvement of the quality of life.

However, bureaucratic “normalization” of the new Europe ran into conflict with traditional everyday cultures in postsocialist cultures. These had old working habits and another temporal rhythm; they were low-trust environments with clientele and network mentalities; they had another attitude toward food, health, and communication, another image of the quality of life, different “structural anxieties,” and so on. Imposed procedural normalization did not coincide with the dream of “return to Europe and normality” and, therefore, was accepted as “normal” by very few Eastern Europeans. The EU passion for procedure and standardization even met symbolic resistance.29 Confronted with the real bureaucratic Europe, the “longing for European normality” became a disappointed utopia and produced the opposite reaction: a new longing for difference, “authenticity,” and communality. This is one explanation for the recent wave of nationalist and isolationist movements in Eastern Europe. These movements also regard themselves as returning to “normal,” only now, “normal” and “natural” are interpreted as “native soil and roots.”


I have tried to demonstrate that the meanings of crucial concepts such as “normal,” “normality,” and “normalization” have been multiple, historically changeable, contradictory, even oxymoronic. To understand historical changes better, one needs to be patient, to chase these details, twists, and contradictions. As Reinhart Koselleck put it,30 they mark the categories and limits of self-understanding which, in turn, makes meaningful historical actions possible while simultaneously setting semantic constrains on them. Some concepts mold the behavior of historical agents. This makes the history of concepts at least as interesting as the history of material conditions.


1 / Klaus Hartung, “Der Intellektuelle als Held,” Die Zeit, November 9, 1990.

2 / See Reinhart Koselleck, “Begriffsgeschichte and Social History,” Future Past: On Semantics of Historical Time, trans. Keith Tribe, The MIT Press, Cambridge 1985, p. 73–92.

3 / There is no registration of “norm” and “normal” in the famous Dictionary of the English Language, by Samuel Johnson (1755, printed by W. Strahan). According to Random House Webster’s College Dictionary (2nd ed., Random House, New York 1997), the first reiterated usages of these words in English is between 1815–1825; when the Latin norma—“rule, pattern”—was anglicized. The Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed., Clarendon Press, Oxford 1989, vol. X) is more precise: it registers the years of penetration of different meanings of “norm,” “normal,” and their derivates in the English language. This dictionary mentions early usages of “normal” (as early as 1650), but in its traditional Latin meaning of “rectangular, perpendicular.” The adverb “normally” has its rare usages, too (meaning “regular”) since the late 16th century. Yet the meaning “conforming to, not deviating from or different from the common type” or “standard, regular, usual” as well as the synonymy between “normal” and “typical” were not registered earlier than 1828; the dictionary dates the mass usages since 1840. The common usages of the substantive “normality” started at that time, too: “under normal or ordinary conditions” is dated about 1850. “Normalize” penetrates into English a little later—about 1865—and one can find “normalization” as early as 1880. The situation in German was not very different. The Duden dictionary (Deutsches Universal Wörterbuch, Dudenverlag, Manheim, Leipzig, Vienna, Zurich 1989) claims that the word Norm was present already in mittelhoch Deutsch (1050–1350) but at that time it was used in the traditional Latin meaning Winkelmass (“angular measure”) and Regel (“rule”); the dictionary of the brothers Grimm (Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm, Deutsches Wörterbuch, vol. 7, Hirtzel, 1854, ed. Mathias von Lexer, 1889), lists the word “normal” but does not mention the meanings “usual, ordinary, typical”—it accentuates the older meaning Als norm dienend, ihr gemäss; regelmässig (“serving as a rule, according to a rule, regular”). In the German language, the root “norm-” is extremely productive, especially concerning composite words such as Normalgewicht (normal weight), Normalgrösse (normal size), Normalhöhe (normal height), Normalform (normal form), etc. In French the situation is similar. The Tresor de la language Française, Dictionnaire de la langue du XIXe et du XXe siècle (vol. 12, Gallimard, Paris 1986), registers the meanings habituel, fréquent, État normal (“habitual,” “frequent,” “normal condition”) as early as 1846. The other important French Dictionary Le Robert (Dictionnaire de la language Francaise, vol. 6, Le Robert, Paris 1987) mentions earlier usages in the traditional geometrical meaning in 1753, and the meaning verbe normale (normal verb) in 1753. It also registers the pedagogical meaning appearing in 1793; École Normale (school for teaching of teachers). Yet, the meanings “usual,” “typical,” and “average” come later—Le Robert registers them in some texts by Balzac and in the positive science of Auguste Comte between 1833 and 1850. The noun “normalisation” appears in French as early as 1873. The Russian dictionary of Vladimir Dall (Tolkovyi slovar ruskogo yazyka, vol. 2, M.O. Volf, Moscow-St Peterburg 1881) mentions “normal” in part of its modern meanings—usual, regular, nonextreme, following the rule. The Russian etymological and historical dictionaries register some early usages of “normal” (1784) but in the meaning of “normal school for teachers.” According to P.Y. Chernyih, Istoriko-Etymologicheskyih slovar sovremennogo ruskogo yazyka Moskva (Ruskii yazyk, 1994), the word “normal” appears in the Russian language as early as 1804 (borrowed from German). In the Bulgarian dictionary of Hristo G. Danov (1868) the word normalen (“normal”) appears in the meaning of “following, obeying the rule, regular, usual, sane”; yet in the other important dictionary of the Bulgarian language (Naiden Gerov 1895–1904) the words “norm” and “normal” do not appear at all—obviously they still sound like “foreign words” to the diligent patriotic lexicographer.

4 / The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., vol. X, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1989.

5 / See footnotes 3 and 4.

6 / Maybe one of the reasons is the appearance of the specialized words “normative” and “normativity,” which clearly differ from “normal” and “normality.” Yet, unlike “normal” and “normality,” these words are rarely used in everyday contexts; they are rather legal or philosophical (ethical) terms.

7 / Koselleck, “Begriffsgeschichte and Social History.”

8 / For the concept “new moral order”—a social order in which people live for their cooperation and mutual services and not for their devotion to the divine—see Charles Taylor, Modern Social Imaginaries, Duke University Press, Durham, London 2004.

9 / In contrast to this modern ideology of normality, it is difficult to find a concept fully corresponding to the meaning of “normality” in ancient languages or in premodern cultures.

10 / Frank Kermode describes a similar shift in the meaning of the word “typical” during the same historical period, see Frank Kermode, The Classic, Faber & Faber, London 1975.

11 / For the meaning of “normalization” in Michel Foucault, see Abnormal: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1974–1975, ed. Valerio Marchetti, Antonella Salomoni, Picador, New York 2003; Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan, Vintage Books, New York 1995.

12 / See Georges Canguilhem, Le normal et le pathologique (1943). German translation: Das Normale und das Pathologische, Hanser, Munich 1974. See also Jim Marshall, “Georges Canguilhem,”

13 / See Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, Tavistock/Routledge, London and New York 1967, 1989, p. 3–38.

14 / Hanna Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (New York 1963). In German: Eichmann in Jerusalem. Ein Bericht von der Banalität des Bösen, Piper and 14. Auflage, Munich 1964 and 1986.

15 / Volker Rühe, “Gestaltung euro-atlantischer Politik,” Europäische Sicherheit 8 (1993), p. 386–388; Stefan Berger, The Search for Normality: National Identity and Historical Consciousness in Germany since 1800, Berghahn Books, Providence 1997; ed. Thomas Childers, Jane Caplan, Re-Evaluating the Third Reich, Holmes & Meier, New York 1993.

16 / R.D. Kernohan, “Searching for Normality in Central Europe,” Contemporary Review 285/1665 (2004), p. 221; Milan Kundera, “The Tragedy of Central Europe,” The New York Review of Books 26 (1984).

17 / Sigrid Rausing, “Re-constructing the Normal: Identity and the Consumption of Western Goods in Estonia,” Markets and Moralities: Ethnographies of Postsocialism, ed. Ruth Mandel, Caroline Humphrey, Berg, New York 2002.

18 / K.-R. Korte, “Die Wiederkehr Europas,” Suddeutsche Zeitung, October 2/3, 1990.

19 / The early intellectual program of the velvet revolutions could be called retro-utopian and banal by philosophers such as Habermas. He wrote as early as 1990: “Indem die nachholende Revolution die Rückkehr zum demokratischen Rechtssaat und den Anschluss an kapitalistisch entwickelten Westen ermöglichen soll, orientiert sie sich nach Modellen, die nach orthodoxer Leseart durch die Revolution von 1917 schon überholt waren. Das mag ein eigentümlichen Zug dieser Revolution erklären: das fast vollständigen Mangel an innovativen, zukunftsweisenden Ideen.” See Jürgen Habermas, “Nachholende Revolution und linker Revolutionsbedarf. Was heisst Sozialismus heute?” Die Moderne—ein unvollendetes Projekt, Reclam-Verlag, Leipzig 1990, p. 215.

20 / Elizabeth Shove, Comfort, Cleanliness and Convenience: The Social Organization of Normality, Berg, Oxford 2003.

21 / Ibid., p. 23.

22 / Ibid., p. 190–191.

23 / Rausing, “Re-constructing the Normal,” p. 127–142.

24 / “The ‘normal,’ then, was not luxury as opposed to the present poverty—that was associated with the ‘New Estonians’; i.e., the newly rich, who in their own way also lacked ‘normality.’ Instead, the ‘normal’ was associated with the solid ordinary comforts of northern Europe, which in the context of the former collective farm, were actually anything but ordinary.” Rausing, “Re-constructing the Normal,” p. 132.

25 / Charles Taylor writes about this imaginary stage as follows: “This identity is vulnerable to nonrecognition, at first on the part of the members of the dominant societies, but later there has developed a world public scene, on which peoples see themselves as standing, on which they see themselves as rated, and which rating matters to them. This world scene is dominated by a vocabulary of relative advance, even to the point of having to discover periodic neologisms in order to euphemize the distinctions. Hence what used to be called the ‘backward’ societies began to be called ‘underdeveloped’ after the War, and then even this came to be seen as indelicate, and so we have the present partition: developed/developing. The backdrop of modern nationalism, that there is something to be caught up with, each society in its own way, is inscribed in this common language, which in turn animates the world public sphere.” Charles Taylor, “Nationalism and Modernity,” The Morality of Nationalism, ed. E. McKim, J. McMahan, Oxford University Press, New York 1997, p. 46. On the topic of staging and imaginary communication, See also Axel Honneth, Die Kampf um Anerkennung. Zur moralischen Grammatik sozialer Konflikte, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main 1992. See also Alexander Kiossev, “Behind the Stage,” Mythistory and Narratives of the Nation in the Balkans, ed. Tatjana Aleksic, Cambridge Scholars Publishers, Cambridge 2007.

26 / This has been noted by many researchers and journalists: “All the government wanted to achieve, according to Defense Minister Rühe, was the vague aim of being able to react just like the FRG’s ‘democratic European neighbors.’ What was significant was not to achieve a positive goal but to avoid abnormality.” In Maja Zehfuss, Constructivism in International Relations: The Politics of Reality, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2002, p. 214.

27 / In 1991 the present author wrote a short article entitled “The Exotics of the Mutants,” which later was taken as the a title for a collection of Bulgarian essays translated in Hungarian: A Mutans Egzotikuma: 2000 Orpheus, Budapest 1993. The Bulgarian title seemed easily understandable for Hungarians: obviously, their experience and self-estimation was not very different from the Bulgarian one. Here one extreme example of this “rhetoric of self-repulsion”: “Take the masks off! No matter that there are no faces under them! [ … ] We are drowning in the mud of lethargy, we are sinking in ideological cloaks [ … ] Take the mask off! Let us create our own faces [ … ] What you will see are not faces, not live, but polyps [ … ] A long time is needed for chaotic hammers to form our semi-faces, semi-words [ … ]” The combination of quotes comes from the article “Poetry Today” by the poet Edvin Sugarev (who later became a leading oppositional politician in Bulgaria) in the first Bulgarian samizdat journal Most, June 1, 1989.

28 / Václav Havel, “The Need for Transcendence in the Post-Modern World,” Journal for Quality & Participation 18/5 (1995), p. 26.

29 / This was the case with Bulgarian and Romanian protest about the regulation of traditional home brewed alcohol (rakia, cuika) and the defense of the traditional Christmas killing of pigs and consumption of pork.

30 / Kosseleck, “Begriffsgeschichte and Social History,” p. 87.