The Language of the Polish Political Class
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University of Warsaw
Publication date: 2008-09-16
Polish Sociological Review 2008;163(3):285–296
This article is about two languages, technocratic and moralising, used by the Polish political class to communicate with, and seduce, citizens. These languages have displaced the proper language of politics, the language of representation, which was only spoken in the early nineteen-nineties when politicians defined themselves as representatives of “ordinary men and women.” The language of representation disappeared in themid-nineties, as trust in the government waned and the increasingly painful consequences of transformation were exposed.As the first language of politics, technocratic language was used to promise to conduct politics professionally, sensitively and in a non-ideological fashion. In this language “problems” come to the forefront: the citizen “has” these problems, the politician “knows” how to solve them. The government is the first intervening institution which wants to combat social pathologies whereas the good state is merely a “normal” state, an efficient machinery. Moralising language, meanwhile, with its central category of “moral indignation,” connects the governing and the governed on the normative plane. When used by the government, it supplements the technocratic language. When used by the opposition, it questions the technocratic language and serves to stigmatise political adversaries as people who have no principles and no conscience. All in all, the two languages are well-fitted to Poles’ ideas about what politics should be. Their existence is as much a sign of Polish society’s lack of culture and political inactivity as of the crisis of the institution of representation which we are also witnessing in mature democracies.