A History of the Polish Intelligentsia – Part 1, edited by Jerzy Jedlicki
← 6 | 7 → Foreword
The intelligentsia continues to be a heated topic in Poland. Whenever an article involving the intelligentsia appears in the press, you can be sure that a response will come. Since the publication in 1946 of a provocative essay by Józef Chałasiński, the sociology professor1, a discussion on the intelligentsia has been flaming in the press every few years – whether in the Poland called the ‘People’s Republic’ (1944-89) or in the Third Republic (since June 1989), with quite similar questions and beliefs colliding anew. Have the intelligentsia inherited the nobility’s attributes and vices? Have they deserved a collective respect, or rather, disapproval and derision? Have they still some social and ideological role to play, or maybe should they get off the stage and give way to the new classes – for instance, the middle class or ‘experts’, whatever such notions ought to mean?
The rules of singling out the intelligentsia, the class’s composition, stratification, economic situation, the prestige of education, their professional qualifications and attitude toward the other classes, particularly the working class and peasantry, were at times subject to sociological investigation and considerations, but the public discussions owed their emotional charge and vigour particularly to politics. The hottest dilemma has always been, whether in the periods when the nation was subject to a severe test – fighting for independence or during civil resistance against the communist power – whether to be inclined to offer more deference or fortitude; more opportunism or nonconformity, for it is known that these...
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