Poland During and After Communism.

Janine R. Wedel

"In this volume, a rich, varied, and well-informed set of contributions make an important and profound contribution to the illumination of this problem. This book is essential for those interested in Eastern Europe, or in the general problem of the transition to liberal institutions."
—Ernest Gellner, Cambridge University

Success always leaves behind a residue of yearning for what used to be and an aversion to the forces that did away with it.
—Kazimierz Wyka, 1945

In 1945, after the devastation of World War Two and German occupation of Poland, prominent literary critic Kazimierz Wyka foretold and warned of the results of society repressed by impersonal government and excluded from economic decisions. His essay, "The Excluded Economy," Clarifies the "story of endless intrigue, manipulation, and accommodation in the name of survival." The parallels between occupied Poland and Communist Poland are apropos to Poland today, after Communism and Solidarity.

The Unplanned Society begins with Wyka's "linchpin" essay as a focus for each of the other contributors. These newly translated voices of Polish sociologists, political and religious leaders, and journalists expose Polish society for the first time to Western readers by showing: oppositionists explaining their own elitism and their long reliance on Western funding; the proliferation of handel, or informal bartering that is the most dynamic phenomenon in the Polish economy: freelance traders whose economic clout helps shape political decisions and whose informal deal-making and loyalties have operated successfully for more than fifty years; the Church's ties to the Communist regime, its political ambitions, and the current anti-Church backlash in a staunchly Catholic nation; solidarity, as it dies the same death as Communism, in the throes of the anti-Solidarity backlash. In the wake of Communism's sudden collapse, Western experts have offered numerous plans for helping Poland reconstruct itself along democratic, free-market line. None will succeed, say Wedel and her writers, unless they also take account of these key themes.

Wedel, who lived and studied in Poland as an anthropologist, has examined these inner workings of Polish society firsthand. She challenges Sovietologists who have explained Polish transition from Communism by the obvious visible institutions: the armed and police forces and state-owned corporations. Now that those establishments has disappeared, Sovietology is "bankrupt, without models."

The vital social networks have allowed the Poles to cope with the vagaries of the government system, Wedel argues, and the "under-the-surface" personal workings of these groups must be studied. These informal institutions are described in this readable and accessible book, revealing the transition from Communist domination after nearly half a century.

The Unplanned Society gives Sovietologists, scholars, and political analysts detailed material to compare the Polish case with today's other East European examples for accurate assessment of the future of these changing nations. The book will benefit business or legal consultants keen to operate effectively in Eastern Europe. Readers will find themselves touched and enlightened by the never-before-heard vioces of these Polish citizens, from the intelligentsia to the workers to the peasants, from the Church to Solidarity to the now-defunct Party, as they detail the emergence of civil society in Poland after Communism.

On line at: Columbia University Press, December 1991.


Polish goat seller
This goat seller in Nowy Targ is an example of private entrepreneurship in Polish agriculture.

[Photo by Gayle Wimmer]

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