Thursday, 12 March 2020

Cancelled - Civil Society against Democracy: Organizational Bases of the Populist Counterrevolution in Poland

11 March 2020 - Coronavirus: update
All public events at the WZB have to be cancelled with immediate effect. This measure will be effective until 20 July 2020. It is based on today's decision by the Governing Mayor of Berlin to introduce a range of urgent measures for Berlin's research institutions to counter the further spread of the Corona-virus.

Grzegorz Ekiert, Harvard University

The distinctive trajectory of civil society’s transformation in Poland has laid the foundations for a cultural and political polarization and facilitated the country’s turn towards authoritarianism. Recent developments in Poland, Ekiert argues, suggest that the notion of civil society’s inherent virtuousness needs reassessment. Ekiert claims that the particular organizational confi­guration of civil society, its sectoral composition, its actors’ normative orientation and prevailing cleavages may either strengthen or weaken demo­cracy. Since the country’s political transition in 1989 Polish civil society has evolved into an organizational form Ekiert describes as “pillarized.” While historically pillarization of civil society was considered to be a phenomenon peculiar to the Low Countries in the 19th century, this form of organization has in contemporary democratic societies become increasingly common. Ekiert argues that the presence of a vertically segmented civil society facilitates extreme polarization while nurturing far-right, nationalist and conservative religious movements.

Grzegorz Ekiert is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Government at Harvard University, director of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, and senior scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. His research and teaching interests focus on comparative politics, regime change and democratization, civil society and social movements and East European politics and societies.

Discussant: Gwendolyn Sasse, Director of the Center for East European and International Studies (ZOiS) and Professor of Comparative Politics at the Department of Politics and International Relations and at the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies at the University of Oxford.  

Moderated by Edgar Grande, Founding Director of the Center for Civil Society Research at the Berlin Social Science Center WZB.


The event is part of the lecture series Civil Society and Political Conflict, organized by the Center for Civil Society Research.