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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 2: Theoretical, Historical and Political Contextualization of Debates About Patriotism in Poland


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Theoretical, Historical and Political Contextualization of Debates About Patriotism in Poland

The analysis of the debates about the meaning of the concept of patriotism is neither normative, nor does it focus solely on historical or theoretical narratives of outstanding individual thinkers, or on the canon of political theory. Rather, it studies the ubiquity of political thought understood as ‘an elected form of discourse through which a society asks itself philosophical questions about politics,’1 and the variety of conceptual and intellectual arguments deployed within its realm. Prominence is given both to concepts and arguments through which they acquire meaning in specific texts, and to individuals (broadly understood as intelligentsia, intellectuals, or symbolical elites) who create, discuss, write about, and influence ideas (or meanings),2 over time, in various contexts.

The analysis pays attention to the fact that concepts ‘constitute tools and weapons of ideological debate,’3 by putting them in their political and argumentative context. Such a study cannot be detached from a given ← 25 | 26 → polity,4 but needs to be grounded in its (national5) political culture, understood in turn as a ‘“set of discourses” through which members of a political community make claims upon each other and interact politically.’6 This is why this research focuses on Poland and its specific context, and uses the analysis of public debates about the key concept of patriotism led by intellectuals to advance a broader argument about the nature of Polish...

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