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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 3: The Reopening of the ‘Discursive Space’ After 1989: Reconquering Key Political Concepts to Legitimize the New Democratic State


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The Reopening of the ‘Discursive Space’ after 1989: Reconquering Key Political Concepts to Legitimize the New Democratic State

Three discussions that occurred during the first decade of the democratic transition will be analyzed in this chapter. They all focused on a pluralist re-definition of a number of key political concepts: the fatherland (1992), nationalism (1997), and patriotism (1998), after decades of their manipulation by the communist regime. These debates, held in the context of rapid social and economic transformation, showed how intellectuals suggested a way of dealing with the communist heritage, its discursive deformations and damages to political culture by providing ideational tools to approach the legacy of the past regime and the transition to democracy.

The conservative philosopher Ryszard Legutko lamented in 1992 that the Publizistik of the initial years of democratic transition allegedly did not deal extensively with important social and political topics and concepts. Many conservative Publizists reiterated in the 2000s this accusation of lack of patriotic discourse after 1989. However, the occurrence and content of the debates analyzed in this chapter contradict the assumption, as their intellectual impact seems to be proven by the fact that they continue to constitute a reservoir of references in subsequent discussions concerning patriotism.

I argue that with respect to the definition of patriotism as the love of one’s country, these three initial debates concerned the question of ‘country.’ I will discuss how the construction of the approach...

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