Concilium Civitas is a group of distinguished social scientists from Poland who work at foreign universities. On 9 and 10 July 2019 they met for the first time in Warsaw at a symposium during which they discussed core phenomena and global trends that are of major significance for Poland and in Poland.
We want to hear your views. Our aim is to have an ongoing dialogue that will help solve problems and will be a forum for discussing matters that relate both to history and to the future. Articles published in the Almanac.
We are planning another Concilium Civitas symposium. We welcome your suggestions concerning organizational matters. If you have any comments about the 2019 symposium please send them to us at: email@example.com
Bart Bonikowski (Harvard), Paul H. Dembiński (Fribourg), Ladislau Dowbor (São Paulo), Grzegorz Ekiert (Harvard), Małgorzata Fidelis (Chicago), Marta Figlerowicz (Yale), Jan Grabowski (Ottawa), Jan Tomasz Gross (Princeton), Irena Grudzińska-Gross (Princeton), Anna Grzymała-Busse (Stanford), Anna Gwiazda (London), Krzysztof Jasiewicz (Lexington), Beata Javorcik (Oxford, EBRD), Maciej Kisilowski (Vienna), Elżbieta Korolczuk (Stockholm), Michał Kosiński (Stanford), Michał Krzyżanowski (Örebro, Liverpool), Martin Krygier (Sydney, Canberra), Jan Kubik (Rutgers, UCL), Georges Mink (Paris), Barbara Misztal (Leicester), Monika Nalepa (Chicago), Jan Pakulski (Hobart), Krzysztof Pomian (Paris), Adam Przeworski (New York), Wojciech Sadurski (Florence, Sydney), Jan Toporowski (London), Nina Witoszek (Oslo), Ania Zalewska (Bath), Jan Zielonka (Oxford).
The first Concilium Civitas symposium will take the form of plenary debates of Concilium members and social scientists working in Poland.
The first edition of the Almanac will be launched during the symposium. The Almanac includes articles submitted by Concilium members and offers an overview of global phenomena and trends which, according to the project members, have a significant impact on Poland.
Concilium Civitas is an independent initiative formed by a group of eminent Polish social scientists working at the world’s leading universities.
Our invitation to join Concilium Civitas has been accepted by social scientists researching social processes (in economy, politics, history) and participating in global academic debates on public affairs.
In France we tend to think that controversies regarding the growing recourse to legal intervention, in terms of painful pasts and the monopolization by legislative and executive authorities of conﬂicts of memory in order to regulate their use by law, is a purely French problem. Maybe this is because it is only in France that historians have organized themselves into a powerful association that is there to defend their freedom to work as historians or to oversee political use of history and memory. In reality this is a worldwide phenomenon, omnipresent in the lives of different societies. Everywhere, governments are giving in to the temptation of ‘using the dead to govern the living’.
I argue that the true revolution of dignity happens as it were behind social movements and organized networks. Though the democratic paradigm shift ultimately needs a critical mass of protesters and a strategy of action, it is first contemplated and designed in the work of individuals and small prosocial groups which I call the ‘humanist outliers’. Their vision is often sung by single voices: intellectual savants, religious leaders, writers and courageous ordinary people who do not necessarily organize but testify to the presence of conscience, compassion and humour in the midst of indignities. Their ranks are endless: the German anti-Nazi theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer; the Soviet scientist Andrei Sacharov; the Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng; the writer–activist Liu Xiaobo; the Egyptian stand-up comic Bassem Youssef and his colleagues who challenged the authoritarian regime by ‘laughing through the Arab Spring’; the monitoring group called ‘Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently’; and the Congolese surgeon Denis Mukwege and his team, who have been helping victims of sexual violence in war.
Our common challenges can thus be presented in one basic statement: we are destroying our natural world in the interest of a minority, and the financial resources to fund the reorientation of our priorities are squandered in tax havens and speculative activities. Unregulated capitalism is leading us up a systemically dysfunctional path. It is rooting blindly for new structures in the immaterial economy and functioning on a global scale beyond the reach of national politics but with an environmental, social and political impact. Technology is racing ahead while institutional change is just creeping along. We once had a Washington Consensus, all that magical thinking about ‘the end of history’, the sense that ‘there is no alternative’ and similar ideas that have been laid to rest. We are facing the challenge of managing not so much a new situation as a deeply flawed process of change.
The rule of law was never well rooted in Central and Eastern Europe. It needs all the help it can get, from all possible quarters. Contemporary anti-constitutional populists, being fully aware of the consequences of what they are doing, are determined to give it no help whatsoever. Meanwhile, those who do seek to oppose populist excess will need to do more than object to (il)legal tactics and manoeuvres. Just as the trade union Solidarity (Solidarność) once brought people together by expanding their understanding of what was behind the arbitrary indecencies of the communist authorities, today’s opponents of arbitrary power will above all need, in every (non-arbitrary) way they can, to show what is at stake, why the rule of law matters, what it is for. Those opponents who are lawyers need to spread the word, not just by talking to each other but also to the society they belong to, and indeed to the wider world. For ultimately this is not about the law or lawyers. It is old wisdom that unlimited power is dangerous. So it is in everyone’s interest that power be held in check and tamed.
Influenced by Soviet as well as American models, early Polish computers had many of the features Rankin and Clark praise. Slow to adopt device personalization, Polish computing lingered longer in the realm of collective projects and time-sharing, and within academic circles. These early projects, which include the Odra line of hardware and a number of university-sponsored supercomputing centres, remain unstudied beyond small specialist circles. Rankin’s and Clark’s books show why examining the alternative modes of digital sociality that underpin them might prove historically as well as politically fascinating.
The key task for liberals is to regain voters’ trust. How do they convince voters that liberalism is still a force for good, despite the rather mixed legacy of liberal governments? So far, liberals have tried to defend their legacy in office chiefly by citing statistics, but this has proved neither credible nor successful. Liberals have also tried to discredit their illiberal opponents. This has been more convincing, but unsuccessful in the sense that it has not led to any spectacular electoral, let alone ideological victory. Liberals have also tried to forge a united front against the populist threat. In Greece, the socialist party PASOK went to bed with its long-standing foe, New Democracy, to prevent Syriza from coming to power. In Italy, Matteo Renzi from the left-wing (former communist) party worked hand in hand with people from Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing party. In Poland, the liberal Civic Platform (PO) party formed an alliance that included the neoliberal Nowoczesna party on the one hand, and post-communist SLD on the other. This tactic was a mixed blessing for liberals. So far, such grand coalitions have seriously weakened mainstream parties not only in Southern Europe, but also in economically prosperous countries such as Germany and Holland. It is too early to conclude whether Poland’s grand coalition will be any more successful.
Modern feminism grew out of two major developments: capitalist economy and political theories of individual rights. Both emerged in tandem and produced contradictory effects for women. The Enlightenment and the French Revolution gave rise to new political discourses of rights and political participation that inspired many social actors, including women and slaves, to demand to be treated as citizens. But the dominant strands of the liberal political theory at the time defined women in terms of difference from men rather than equality. Jean Jacques Rousseau, in particular, argued that female reproductive functions made women incapable of rational thinking, and therefore women inherently could not exercise political rights. Instead, he and his followers chose to rely on the theory of sexual complementarity that assigned women distinct roles in democratic societies – as mothers and nurturers confined to the domestic sphere. Although Rousseau and others explained the exclusion of women from citizenship in medical and scientific terms, their ideas were influenced by the fear of social instability. If women were to be equal citizens – and many elite women in 18th-century Europe demanded just that – what would happen to the maternal and domestic duties that were believed to sustain the social and moral order of the nation?