Twenty Years of Civil Society in Poland?
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University in Bialystok, Polish Academy of Sciences
Publication date: 2011-09-27
Polish Sociological Review 2011;175(3):271-300
This article synthetically presents the origins and development of civil society in post-1989 Poland. Having reviewed many years of research, the author proposes nine general theses which characterize these processes. 1) Civil society developed in seven basic socio-institutional areas including local communities, informal movements and initiatives, individual civic activity, some parishes and religious groups and the NGO sector. 2) Civil society in Poland is relatively small-scale and concentrated in enclaves. 3) Two major factors contributed to its development: bottom-up (grassroots) citizen activity and foreign support. 4) The Polish elite were a “grand absentee” in this process. 5) In addition to “betrayal by the elite,” other significant barriers to the development of civil society in Poland can also be identified. 6) The civil sector in Poland continues to be a wasted opportunity and potential. 7)After 2000 a specific, pro-developmental institutional change has been observed in the civil society area but has not yet produced positive effects. 8) Following the EU accession in 2004, partial “Europeanization” of civil society took place in Poland but its impact on the civil sector has been equivocal, at least so far. 9) Development of civil structures is essential for the normal functioning of democracy (at least in Polish conditions): civil society, based on the unique capacity to develop secondary groups, cannot be substituted in this role by quasi-civic, primary attachments and structures.
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