Populism : the polish case
Title: Populism : the polish case
Author: WYSOCKA, Olga
Citation: Florence : European University Institute, 2010
Series/Number: EUI PhD theses; Department of Political and Social Sciences
This thesis inquires into the nature of populism in Poland after 1989. This broad research problem is translated into a number of specific questions: how can we characterize the particularities of the Polish case? What is the relationship between populism and democracy in Poland? Can the growing strength of the populists be seen as a sign of a serious crisis of Polish democracy or does it simply reflect something that might be defined as populist democracy? This thesis attempts to answer these research questions through case studies of selected politicians (Lech Walesa and Stanislaw Tyminski), parties (Self-Defence, League of Polish Families and Law and Justice) and a movement (Radio Maryja). The cases chosen meet two conditions: they were identified as populist in the public discourse and they played a major role in Polish political life. The empirical part of the research was based on qualitative analysis of primary party literature, interviews, secondary literature and a limited use of questionnaires. The thesis confirms that populism can be identified in all the cases studied. At the same time the thesis shows that the form of populism varies between populism as a strategy and populism as an ideology (thin-centred ideology or ideology in a strict sense). Irrespective of its form, the main tool of populism is its discourse. The thesis also distinguishes three waves of populism: two in opposition (1989-2005) followed by a third wave in power (2005-2007). Each wave had its own characteristic features ranging from social, anti-EU to anti-liberal elements. In all cases populism was an expression of conservative and Christian values, which seem to be a specific Polish feature. Yet another important element in the Polish case is the anti-establishment emphasis, an emphasis that derives from dissatisfaction with the settlement of accounts with communism. From this emerges the concept of a ‘network’, a categorization linking post-communist bureaucrats and compromised opposition forces. The thesis concludes that populists in Poland were not opposed to democracy as such, but rather to constitutionalism and procedural democracy. Populism was, above all, a warning sign of social tensions in liberal democracy. Polish populists opposed populist democracy to its liberal version. The case of Poland has also demonstrated the ways in which democracy can resist populism.
LC Subject Heading: Political parties -- Poland; Populism -- Poland
Defense date: 04 June 2010; Examining Board: László Bruszt (EUI), Cas Mudde (Univ. Antwerp), Peter Mair (EUI) (Supervisor), Alex Szcezerbiak (Univ. Sussex)
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