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Polish Patriotism after 1989

Concepts, Debates, Identities


Dorota Szeligowska

This book analyses the concept of patriotism and the contestation over its meaning in key public debates in Poland over the last twenty-five years. It focuses on the strategies used to define, re-shape and «bend» the notion of patriotism, which during this period has become a central issue in Polish political discourse. Contemporary Polish society is characterized by a growing polarization of the public sphere. Rivalry between former communists and former dissidents has been progressively replaced by internal opposition within the ranks of once-dissident allies, now divided into civic-minded «critical» patriots and nationalist-oriented «traditional» patriots. This division re-emerges regularly during key moments in Polish public life – most recently in the aftermath of the highly contested 2015 parliamentary elections. By tracing the evolution of the debate over patriotism since 1989, this book provides crucial insights into the current political situation.
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Chapter 1: Introducing Polish Intellectual Debates About Patriotism


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Introducing Polish Intellectual Debates About Patriotism

The concept of patriotism is strongly embedded in the political languages of some countries, such as the United States of America. It has also been an object of theoretical reflection in the field of political theory over the past 30 years, and a number of conceptualizations have been proposed to establish the grounds for a stable and viable political allegiance of citizens to their respective polities. One of these is ‘constitutional patriotism,’ a conceptualization that emerged in Germany in the 1980s in the context of the ‘Historians’ debate’ [Historikerstreit], about the approach to the nation’s war past. The idea of constitutional patriotism, looking beyond a purely national framework of reference, was later suggested as a possible desirable version of political allegiance to the European Union, perceived as a post-national community.

In 1989, the political changes that swept the communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe, leading also to the dislocation of the Soviet Union, placed a number of countries that had only a vague, if any, experience of democracy, on the road to democratic transformation. It seems natural that debates about the nature of allegiance and national identity ensued. Yet in Poland in particular, the persistence of discussions about the concept of patriotism reaches beyond merely understanding questions related to national community and statehood, and provides insights concerning broader political culture and nature of contestation.

On a theoretical level, the...

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