Consolidating Democracy in Poland

Consolidating Democracy in Poland

Consolidating Democracy in Poland

Consolidating Democracy in Poland


A comprehensive analysis of politics in a young European democracy, this book describes the principal features of Poland's democratic system- the political institutions, parties, elections, and leaders that have shaped the transition from communism. Raymond Taras examines the complex Walesa phenomenon; the comeback of the communists; and the uneasy relationship between the presidency, parliament, and the prime minister. Recognizing that democratic consolidation requires economic development, Taras considers Poland's economic performance under free-market rules as well as the related issues of privatization, foreign investment, trade, and integration into the global economy. Applying a regime-change framework that focuses on the sequence of crisis, choice, and change, he contextualizes Poland's political and economic transformation during the 1990s, describing the sources of crisis of the former communist regime and reviewing the political solutions considered by the embattled ruling elite and the restless Solidarity opposition. Throughout, Taras summarizes and tests a variety of theories governing democratic transition, institution building, and economic development, making an important contribution to the comparative study of democratic consolidation.


Scholarly writing about politics in Central and Eastern Europe in recent years has been largely concerned with the transition from communism to democracy and capitalism. the historic changes that took place in the countries of the region in 1989 have justifiably inspired extensive research aimed at explaining why the Soviet bloc suddenly crumbled and liberal democracy quickly found many public advocates and few public adversaries. Further archival research, interviews, and surveys need to be conducted to shed as much light as possible on the momentous events that led to the democratic breakthrough.

This book is different. It is primarily concerned with whether, in the Polish case, the transition has led to a stable and consolidated democracy. Questions about which party holds power, who is likely to win the next presidential election, and when Poland can expect to join the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are important, of course, and I examine these issues carefully. But to discover the broader meaning of the answers to these questions it seems useful to introduce the dichotomous variable of consolidated versus unconsolidated democracy. This approach allows me to map clearly what the country has achieved since 1989.

The Explanandum

The test for determining whether democracy has been consolidated is that identified by the political scientist Adam Przeworski: "Democracy is consolidated when it becomes self-enforcing, that is, when all the relevant political forces find it best to continue to submit their interests and values to the uncertain interplay of institutions." a similar definition of consolidation is provided by Scott Mainwaring, Guillermo O'Donnell, and J. Samuel Valenzuela: It occurs when "all major political actors take for granted that democratic procedures dictate government renewal" and that democratic continuity is certain. a more procedure-based definition is contained in Ralf Dahrendorf's view that consolidated democracy occurs . . .

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