chapter  Chapter 13
24 Pages

Crisis of Neoliberalism and the Rise of Authoritarianism in Poland

How a “Good Change” is Turning Poland into a Neo-Authoritarian State
WithNadia Smiecinska

Decades of neoliberalism have fostered an environment of increasing social inequality and have given rise to authoritarian regimes throughout the world. In Poland, the Law and Justice Party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc—PiS), which has been in the leadership of the national government since 2015, has been advocating for a nationalist, illiberal, xenophobic, and authoritarian ideology and governance that is threatening the country’s future. This chapter explores the rise of authoritarianism in Poland in recent years, which has been challenging the liberal democratic order that had been established in the postcommunist period for nearly three decades. In postcommunist Poland, we have been witnessing the rapid and chaotic economic transition from communism to capitalism since 1989, which provides the socio-political-economic context for the current crisis, where large sections of the population willingly vote for a party that styles itself as authoritarian. The arrival of neoliberal capitalism after decades of communism provides a productive context for our examination of why a country that relatively recently toppled a communist regime votes itself back into an authoritarian mode of governance, this time a right-wing one. The embrace of the logic for a neoliberal political-economic order by parties on both the right and the left, and the ensuing growing inequality and precarity for all, suggests why so many Poles are frustrated and distrust all governmental leadership. Although PiS voters are more likely to identify with the party’s ideology than voters of the opposition parties, discontent with political leadership is extensive across Polish society. However, PiS’s pledge of “making Poland great again” for its citizens and turn it into a considerable international force is a mere façade that does not challenge the roots of many problems arising from the postcommunist transition to the neoliberal capitalist order.