Franke Institute for the Humanities
1100 East 57th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
WHY POLAND MATTERS
East European Lessons for the Time of Trump
In the 16 months since the Law and Justice Party won elections, Poland has been thrust into the center of global interest. It has radically changed laws governing the courts, schools, media, and police. It has reduced the retirement age, introduced cash payments to parents, and begun a campaign against “gender ideology.” It refuses to accept refugees, has increasingly frosty relations with the European Union, but better relations with its own trade unions. It has also restricted the rights of the opposition.
Is Poland no longer a democratic country? Or does it finally have a government that represents the real interests of its people? Today no one doubts that Poland is transforming Europe. With other countries turning to the right, some see it
as a new model for the world. It may well provide hints of what to expect from the Trump presidency.
This talk is about how Poland’s recent history tells us so much not just about Poland, but about our world today.
David Ost is Professor of Political Science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York, and frequent visiting professor in Poland. He is the author of several books on communist and postcommunist society, including "Solidarity and the Politics of Anti-Politics," "Workers After Workers’ States," and "The Defeat of Solidarity" – the last of which, after publication in Polish translation, has and continues to play a significant role in Polish political debates and academic research. His essays have been published in a number of scholarly and popular journals, such as Politics and Society, European Journal of Social Theory, Theory and Society, East European Politics and Society, The Nation, Dissent, Telos, and Tikkun. He is on the editorial boards of several scholarly journals in both the U.S. and Poland. In 2005, Ost received from former Polish President Lech Walesa a special medal issued for the 25th Anniversary of Solidarity.