Adequacy of civil society concept in reality of post – communist societies

dr Rafał Riedel

This discussion paper deals with the problem present both in Polish as well as international social sciences literature concerning the adequacy of using civil society concept in analyzing the reality of post-communist societies.
In his analysis of social capital, it was Pierre Bourdieu who proposed to use the term political capital, when speaking about post-soviet societies. After him, many other academics: sociologists, political scientists, social psychologists developed the critics generating the whole new stream. The critical mass of the discussion was reached when Janusz Czapiński published his paper in “Nauka” (Science) entitled: “Poland – a state without society” (2006). This provocative thesis was formulated on the basis of rich and recognized research proving poor condition of trust and consequently inter-personal relations within Polish society.
This analysis comprises of synthetic view of major theoretical approaches on social capital and civil society, among them: Juergen Habermas, John Keane, Feliks Koneczny, Pierre Bourdieu, Robert Putnam, James Coleman, George Sorsos and Francis Fukuyama.
The opinions undermining the adequacy of using civil society as a concept and as a research tool in post-communist societies are presented, their argumentation put under critics. Major arguments and counterarguments are rooted in social survey results.
Author will support the opinion that to a high degree, Polish society as a transactional one, however this does not exclude it from the possibility of being analyzed with similar research methods as Dutch or American society.
The suggested problem is rather a result brought about by the fact that once civil society has become a “trendy” concept it gained so many theories that this category is so wide nowadays, that it represents much more rhetoric potential than scientific, explanatory power.
Conclusions formulated in the summary allow to free civil society idea from accusations of not being adequate in describing and understanding social processes in a society like Polish.

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