Undoing Legal Authoritarianism in Poland

Undoing Legal Authoritarianism in Poland

UW Evans School of Public Policy and Governance presents a talk “Undoing Legal Authoritarianism: The Case of Poland, and Its Relevance Elsewhere” by Dvid Ost. A Q&A session will follow.

During the eight years it was in power, starting in 2015, Poland’s Law and Justice Party (PiS), led by Jarosław Kaczyński, pursued a hard “right-wing populist” agenda marked by eviscerating the Constitutional Court, purging the judiciary, executive control of prosecution, politicizing the civil service, turning public media into a party mouthpiece, using state firms to fund pro-government civil society institutions, restricting opposition prerogatives in parliament, openly violating the Constitution, tolerating and even promoting racism, administrative assertion of traditional gender norms, cultural resurrection of authoritarian traditions, and surveillance without check. In October 2023 a broad democratic coalition defeated PiS and set about undoing PiS-style authoritarianism – and has found that it faces extensive obstacles doing so, since PiS placed all kinds of traps in state institutions guaranteeing its continued dominance even when not in power. In this talk, based on long-term observation of political transformation in Poland and a recent 10-day visit in January 2024, I will look at the difficulties and contradictions in the new government’s efforts to overcome PiS minefields and “restore democracy.” What is the new government actually doing? Does law have to be broken in order to restore rule of law? Can undoing illiberalism bring respect for rule of law, or just intensify the polarization and make the next illiberal effort even more dangerous? I look at Poland also as a test case likely to be relevant elsewhere, perhaps even in the United States after a possible new Trump administration.

David Ost is a professor of Politics at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. He has written widely on eastern Europe, with a focus on Poland, labor, class, democracy, and the radical right. His books include Solidarity and the Politics of Anti-Politics, Workers After Workers’ States, The Defeat of Solidarity, and the edited collection “Class After Communism.” Recent articles include “Why (Which) Workers Often Oppose (Which) Democracy?”, “REN PILL Politics in Poland,” and “The Surprising Right-Wing Relevance of the Russian Revolution.” He is currently finishing a book titled “Red Pill Politics: Fascism and Right-Wing Populism.”

This talk is free and open to the public. Registration is required, please click here to register.

MoreEvent UW page

by RK


Starts On

March 5, 2024 - 12:00 pm

Ends On

1:00 pm

Event Tags

Poland, Politics



United States