Magdalena Nowicka-Franczak


Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Łódź

Bronisław Geremek Junior Visiting Fellow
(October 2014 July 2015)


Public Acts of Self-Critique in Poland and Central Europe: From Totalitarian Regimes to Mediacracy

The societies of Central Europe – ‘hungry’ for democracy, capitalism and free mass media – are turning into a fascinating laboratory of ‘self-criticism’ and ‘self-improvement’ which conceal the frailty of legitimization for democratic transformations. My project examines the evolution of self-critique: from a political act as an institution of coercive apparatus, and the moralizing self-critique of elites, to quasi-self-critique in the media in order to save public careers in the face of vetting, corruption or moral charges.



The Trap of Being New Europe

In the face of the migration crisis and populist shift within the EU, the outmoded and stale division between New and Old Europe is coming back into favor in European public debate. The concept of ‘New Europe’ can easily serve to explain and at the same time to normalize, in a politically correct way, a qualitative difference between Western Europe and its Eastern neighbors. From a Central and Eastern European perspective, however, the term ‘New Europe’ seems essentially contradictory, since being a part of Europe in its cultural and political dimensions always was and still is an undebatable assumption.
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Committee for the Defense of Democracy in Poland: Rebellion of the “Beneficiaries of the Transformation”?

KOD is avoiding sensitive subjects, which could divide its sympathizers, but at the same time with its moderate postulates it discourages those Poles who blame the former centrist government for its cultural conservatism and economic neoliberalism. By integrating different party groups, KOD is building its political capital, but at the same time it pays a high price for it. It is easy for PiS to frame these social protests as a revolt by those who lost the election and cannot accept their defeat.
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Self-criticism in Public Discourse: A Device of Modernization? The Case of Eastern Europe

This article discusses the vitality of the concept of self-criticism as a communicational and discursive phenomenon in Eastern Eu­rope undergoing modernization. In the present study, self-criticism is understood as a reckoning of one’s self and criticism directed at its own subject. The idea of self-criticism dates back to the ancient Greek maxim of epimeleia heautou (‘care of the self’) as well as the Christian call for examination of the self and the auto-da-fé rituals. In Eastern Europe under the communist regime public acts of self-criticism constituted an official procedure of expressing one’s loyalty to the ruling party. Readiness to perform self-criticism could result from one’s opportunism or from extreme pressure put on the individual e.g. in show trials of so-called “enemies of the party”. Growing disillusionment with communism among intellectuals led to self-criticism aimed at self-reckoning with their engagement in the regime. In post-communist times, self-criticism condemning one’s communist past has become an important element of public and political communication. It was quickly accompanied by transition disillusionment’s self-criticism stemming from the disappointment with the political, economic and social outcomes of modernization implemented in Eastern Europe after the change. Nowadays, self-criticism plays the role of a litmus test of social tensions deriving from the contradictory approaches to modernization scenarios in the region.
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The Polish Presidential Election: A Victory for the “Radicals”?

The surprise defeat of the Polish president Bronisław Komorowski by the Law and Justice candidate Andrzej Duda suggests a return of the reactionary and parochial politics of the Kaczynski era. Social scientist Magdalena Nowicka discusses where Komorowski and the Civic Platform went wrong, and whether this is a taste of things to come in the Polish parliamentary elections in October.
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