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Polish Liberal Thought before 1918

Maciej Janowski, Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences

"...provides a close reading of the views of individuals little known in the Anglophone world, but who created a distinctively Polish version of liberalism in the 19th century. Without the economic liberalism reflected in western thought, Janowski reveals Polish liberalism to be coherent and dynamic, emphasizing modernization in an effort to enable the Polish lands to 'catch up,' and consequently reflecting a more positive view of the state than the position taken by, for example, English liberals... Recommended. All levels/libraries." - Choice


Based on solid research, this erudite study is a first attempt at presenting a comprehensive analysis of nineteenth-century Polish liberalism. Polish liberal tradition has generally been considered weak or even nonexistent. Janowski, on the other hand, argues that nineteenth-century Poland inherited a strong protoliberal tradition from the nobility-based democracy, and that in the mid-nineteenth century, liberalism was a dominant trend in Polish intellectual life, even if it rarely appeared in its pure form and did not create political movements separating liberal aims from patriotic ones.

The author maintains that the definition of liberalism in Central Europe should not be based on the Anglo-Saxon model, in view of the weakness of the middle classes and, in the case of partitioned Poland, the lack of independent statehood. This explains why there was a marked etatist trend among liberal thinkers, who saw the creation of a strong state as a tool of modernization.

Janowski sees his subject in a broad comparative perspective, taking into account the historical experience of other nations of Central Europe. His innovative interpretation may be the starting point for new debates in the ongoing discussion on the different perceptions of liberalism.

2004
294 pages
ISBN 978-963-9241-18-3 cloth $47.95 / €42.95 / 40.00

 

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