Poland's Memory Wars

Essays on Illiberalism
$52.00 / €42.00 / £37.00
Publication date: 
292 pages

Statement of the Publisher

The following sentence in Chapter 1 (p. 32) was published without identifying the source: "Rather than having “died” like a civilian in an accident, he is referred to as having “fallen” like a soldier in battle." The quotation is taken from an article entitled "The Ghosts of Smolensk. How the divisive legacy of late President Lech Kaczynski still poisons Poland’s politics" by Christian Davies published in Foreign Policy on April 8, 2016. Available here. The publisher and the editor apologize for the mistake.

This volume of essays and interviews by Polish, British, and American academics and journalists provides an overview of current Polish politics for both informed and non-specialist readers. The essays consider why and how PiS, Law and Justice, the party of Jarosław Kaczynski, returned to power, and the why and how of its policies while in power. They help to make sense of how “history” plays a key role in Polish public life and politics.

The descriptions of PiS in Western media tend to rework old stereotypes about Eastern Europe that had lain dormant for some time. The book addresses the underlying question whether PiS was simply successful in understanding its electorate, and just helped Poland to revert to its normal state. This new Normal seems quite similar to the old one: insular, conservative, xenophobic, and statist.

The book looks at the current struggle between one ‘Poland’ and another; between a Western-looking Poland and an inward-looking Poland, the former more interested in opening to the world, competing in open markets, and working within the EU, and the latter more concerned with holding onto tradition.

The question of illiberalism has gone from an ‘Eastern’ problem (Russia, Turkey, Hungary, etc.) to a global one (Brexit and the U.S. elections). This makes the very specific analysis of Poland’s illiberalism applicable on a broader scale.

Introduction: Jo Harper, Illiberal, Aliberal, Anti-liberal?

PART I Essays on PiS
Jo Harper, Never Mind the Boleks!
Andrzej Rychard, What's Finished, What's Beginning?
David Ost, Authoritarian Drive in Poland
Brian Porter-Szűcs, The Triumph of National Communism
Artur Lipiński & Agnieszka Stępińska, Polish Right-wing Populism
Nicholas Richardson, Crisis, What Crisis?
Jan Muś, Foreign Relations in the Age of Kaczyński

PART II PiS's Politics of History
Joanna Średnicka, The New Romantics
Jan Darasz, The History Men
Ewa Stańczyk, Poland's Culture of Commemoration
Dariusz Czaja, Poland's Theater of Death

PART III PiS's Politics of Normality
Urszula Chowaniec, The Quest for the "Normal" Family
Tomasz Basiuk, Straight Talking
Remi Adekoya, An Identity Reset
Conclusion: Jo Harper

Part IV Interviews
Jan Gross, History As We May Wish It To Be
Neal Ascherson, 966 and All That
Mikolaj Kunicki, The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same
Mateusz Kijowski, History Repeats Itself
Pawel Ukielski, Understand the War, Understand Poland
Neal Pease, Defenders of the Faith

Appendix I: Timeline
Appendix II: Glossary
The Cast
Romantic and Post-Romantic Poets and Dramatists
List of Contributors

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