Conference Agenda

RN36_03: Political Changes: Providing explanations
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Matej Makarovič, School of Advanced Social Studies
Location: GM.304
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Geoffrey Manton, Third Floor 4 Rosamond Street West Off Oxford Road


The Turn From Morphogenesis To Morphostasis And The Rise Of Neoconservative Agency In Estonia

Marju Lauristin, Peeter Vihalemm

University of Tartu, Estonia

The theory of morphogenesis/morphostasis (Archer 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017) could provide useful analytic tools for explanation of divergent trajectories of the post-communist transformations, when looking at the emergence of the new agencies and structures in societies as a result of concrete loops of the positive feedback in the case when positive changes leading to morphogenesis are taking place, and the negative feedback loops which are hindering changes and producing counter-effects, leading to stagnation or morphostasis (Archer, 2014: 95-96). Applying this theory to the different periods of Estonian transformation (Lauristin & Vihalemm 2017), we can divide the whole process of societal changes into three morphogenetic cycles: restoration of the nation state and neoliberal reforms (1990-2003), joining EU and adaptation to transnational environment (2004-2015) and search for the new strategy of sustainable national development (2016 - ). Our presentation will focus on the last cycle, analysing contest between old and new social agencies and political visions, particularly considering morphostatic mechanisms related to the rise of conservative nationalism.

Individual Agency or Context. Determinants of Change in Polish Contemporary Society

Agnieszka Kolasa-Nowak

Marie Curie-Sklodowska University, Poland

The focus of the paper is the changing sources of dynamics in Polish society. I am especially interested in the role of individual action in explaining social processes in a post-communist society. Taking into account the fall of the socialism and decades of economic, political and social transformations it is important to evaluate the problem of agency in broad perspective. In explanations of social reality in Poland is there a space for individual actions or is it a global context of historically defined regions that gives the basic explanatory frame? The underlying question is whether Eastern Europe can be perceived as having its own agency in the process of transformation.

There is a shift in explanations from optimistic visions of autonomous decisions made by individual actors in 1989 towards the growing awareness of systemic external determinants (coming from global market, geopolitics or historical determinism). In this context the problem of barriers and durable differences is of special interest for sociologists and is also meaningful in public discourse. Moreover, boundaries, which seemed to cease in the times of EU-integration, are now gaining in importance in Poland. Are they the effect of human actions or the result of factors that they have no influence on?

I will base my arguments on the analysis of Polish sociological discourse and on the results of recent social research.

In search for the roots of recent Czech Euroscepticism

Tomáš Kostelecký

Institute of Sociology of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic

The recent public opinion surveys shows that Czechs are one of the most euro-sceptical nations within the European Union. Referendum in Czechia about whether to remain or to leave the EU (if any) could lead to Czexit, despite generally positive macro-economic indicators (GDP growth, low unemployment, low inflation). The paper seeks to examine potential reasons for scepticism of Czechs towards the European Union. Several potential underlying factors of euro-scepticism are examined: 1) the discrepancy between the optimistic expectations of early 1990’s and reality of the convergence process, 2) the specific reactions of Czech politicians, media and general public to the Great Recession, the European debt crisis, the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis, and the European refugee crisis, 3) the long-term specific features of public opinion of Czechs on their position in the international arena. The basic (macro)economic indicators and the data from public opinion surveys are used as the main source of information

Explaining Poland’s Illiberal Revolution

Klaus Mueller

AGH University of Science & Technology, Poland

The recent populist wave that swept Eastern Europe put an end to the illusionary victory of liberal democracy across the region. This applies especially to Poland, the country with the most impressive civil society movement, Solidarnosz, and the frontrunner of radical market reforms. Despite the best economic performance of all post-communist countries, the party Law and Justice (PiS) came to power for a second time in 2015, only to impose its retrograde national-catholic model on the media, the law system, and the public sector.

The surprising turn of Polish politics is usually subsumed under “populism”: the global revolt against subordination to international institutions, foreign capital, cosmopolitan values and large-scale immigration. The party in power heavily uses populist rhetoric (anti-immigration, anti-Brussels, ‘good’ vs. ‘bad Poles’, sovereign nation etc.). However, referring to “populism” hardly explains if/why its voters took the message at face value.

The paper will use the Polish case to contrast the diagnostic value of current concepts of populism with socio-structural and contextual explanations. The success of PiS, as argued, cannot be explained by the immanent strength of its populist rhetoric. Rather it points to the programmatic neglect of its liberal predecessors: of regional heterogeneity, precarious working conditions, and sharpened inequalities. While the electorate supports some valid points of PiS’s socio-economic programme, it is not inclined to follow its internally divisive and externally confrontational anti-EU ideology. However, present EU policies are not the solution but part of a constellation, on which populist propagandists capitalise.