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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 7: Discussing the Country, Contesting the Love: Concluding Remarks


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Discussing the Country, Contesting the Love: Concluding Remarks

The concept of patriotism has enjoyed a sustained presence in the public discourse in Poland over the last 25 years, and has been a strong feature of a number of public debates. This analysis has focused on the usage of the word ‘patriotism’ itself by different intellectual actors and on the meaning that the concept thus obtained in specific contexts in function of who used it and with what intention.

While the renowned historian Aleksander Smolar concluded in the 2010 debate that it was more interesting to understand the phenomenon of constant debating about the nature of patriotism than the meaning of the concept itself (interviewed in Znak, Source 9.169), this research project has also analyzed the content of the concept, using the tools of conceptual analysis in its textual, contextual, and morphological aspects. The analysis sought to study the dynamics of the contestation and establish which arguments managed to attain a certain level of importance qua domination at a certain point in time, and for what reasons. Thanks to this approach, the concept of patriotism could be linked to broader issues related to the Polish public sphere, political culture and public discourse. The analysis showed the evolution of the topics that were discussed with relation to and through the concept of patriotism. These topics included, among others, the nature of the political community, and democracy.

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