From Sociological Vacuum to Horror Vacui: How Stefan Nowak’s Thesis Is Used in Analyses of Polish Society
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In the late 1970s, Stefan Nowak posited the existence of a sociological vacuum in Poland, and his concept became one of the most widely employed in studies of this society. The author of the present article uses an inventory of publications citing Nowak’s perspective to analyse the manner in which this key concept has been implemented in sociological explanations. According to his findings, the idea appears to be most often used in accounts of the 1980s “Solidarność” movement, in reference to civil society and social capital, and in treatments of democracy in Poland. The validity of Nowak’s idea is not usually questioned, and scholars referring to his thesis frequently modify the initial argument by shifting its meaning and ignoring its national identity element. Furthermore, in the analyzed works, the authors point to a sociological vacuum as an obstacle to the desired development of civil society, social capital, and democracy in Poland. This is usually done without deeper theoretical or empirical discussion, and in an essayistic and dramatized fashion. Such an anxiety about the lack of necessary ingredients in Polish society is described as horror vacui—i.e., fear of empty space.
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