On the Unpredictability of Revolutions Why did Polish Sociology Fail to Forecast Solidarity?
 
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University of Warsaw
Publication date: 2010-01-05
 
Polish Sociological Review 2009;168(4):523–538
 
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ABSTRACT
The 1989–1981 Solidarity revolution took everybody by surprise: the political authorities, the democratic opposition and the observers of social life in Poland. It also took the sociologists by surprise. This essay tries to explain why Polish sociology did not forecast Solidarity. The author argues that the reason for this failure lies in the fact that the birth of Solidarity was a revolutionary, and therefore naturally unpredictable, event. It was also an unprecedented one. It was the first anti-totalitarian revolution. He also points out that major social conflict was unthinkable in the context of mainstream theories and did not fit into Polish sociologists’ ideas concerning their own society. He recognizes that the amazement which Solidarity evoked stimulated reflection which led to a deeper understanding of social process and the nature of prediction in sociology.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The first version of this article was presented at the conference “Solidarity: Event, Consequences, Memories” which was held at the University of Warsaw University to commemorate Solidarity’s 25th anniversary, 22–23 September 2005.
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