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Chauvinism, Polish Style

The Case of Roman Dmowski (Beginnings: 1886–1905)

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Grzegorz Krzywiec

The book addresses the genesis of Polish integral nationalism and the role of Roman Dmowski as a co-founder of this phenomenon in the development of Polish political thought at the fin-de-siècle. Based on extensive documentary research, it attempts to show a broader picture of modern Polish political and social thinking in context of the late 19 th and early 20 th East Central Europe. The author reflects on the significance of racial thinking and Social Darwinism of the new nationalist imagination, arguing that its intellectual foundations came from anti-positivist and anti-Enlightenment tradition. He challenges the widespread assumption that Polish nationalism in its early version cherished somehow mild attitudes toward minorities, especially the Jews, claiming instead that enmity toward «Otherness» constitutes its ideological core. A major feature of the book is the contextualization of Polish nationalism against the backdrop of the fin-de-siècle European political thought.
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Chapter Three: Racism, Polish Style

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Chapter Three Racism, Polish Style

‘The idealistic revolt’, which the Warsaw Głos was leading, had its own breakthroughs, i.e. crises of ideas, in which the idealistic rebellion confronted a barrier in the form of limitations imposed by the current state of knowledge. The seeds of the fashion for anthropological studies developing in Europe in the second half of the 19th century lay in the enormous popularity of Darwin’s teachings. His ideas, accepted in social and political thought, provoked wide interest and discussion. The concepts of ‘natural selection’ and ‘struggle for survival’ appeared to be so universal that their usefulness began to be recognized for studies of human societies.

So Darwin’s theory, whose development was accompanied by a whole series of concepts of varying popularity, found serious continuators in the social sciences. Observation of the politics of the day – especially in its international dimension, in which colonialism played a key part given that the European powers’ imperialist ambitions were meeting with their greatest triumphs – possibly contributed to popularizing the general reception of conclusions derived from Darwin’s teachings. These concepts spread rapidly, thereby provoking vehement critics, above all representatives of various Christian churches. This intellectual commotion was not simply a result of the blooming and growing popularity of the study of natural science – a blooming whose symbol was the name Darwin. The roots of this phenomenon lay much deeper.

One of the key reasons for this ferment may have been the need...

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