From Sociological Vacuum to Horror Vacui: How Stefan Nowak’s Thesis Is Used in Analyses of Polish Society
 
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University of Warsaw
Publication date: 2015-03-30
 
Polish Sociological Review 2015;189(1):5–28
 
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ABSTRACT
In the late 1970s, Stefan Nowak posited the existence of a sociological vacuum in Poland, and his concept became one of the most widely employed in studies of this society. The author of the present article uses an inventory of publications citing Nowak’s perspective to analyse the manner in which this key concept has been implemented in sociological explanations. According to his findings, the idea appears to be most often used in accounts of the 1980s “Solidarność” movement, in reference to civil society and social capital, and in treatments of democracy in Poland. The validity of Nowak’s idea is not usually questioned, and scholars referring to his thesis frequently modify the initial argument by shifting its meaning and ignoring its national identity element. Furthermore, in the analyzed works, the authors point to a sociological vacuum as an obstacle to the desired development of civil society, social capital, and democracy in Poland. This is usually done without deeper theoretical or empirical discussion, and in an essayistic and dramatized fashion. Such an anxiety about the lack of necessary ingredients in Polish society is described as horror vacui—i.e., fear of empty space.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I would like to express my gratitude to Izabela Bukraba-Rylska, Mateusz Fałkowski, Jarosław Kilias, Ireneusz Krzemiński, Adriana Mica and two anonymous reviewers whose remarks and suggestions helped me in formulating my argument.
FUNDING
This article was written in the framework of the project What fills up the sociological vacuum? The reinterpretation of Stefan Nowak’s thesis from a network perspective, as exemplified by the labor market behaviors, funded by National Science Centre Poland on the basis of decision number DEC-2012/07/D/HS6/00977.
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