The publication last year of The End of the Liberal Mind: Poland’s New Politics furnishes us with a welcome opportunity to reflect on the challenges facing liberal democracy in Poland and how they relate to the challenges faced elsewhere. The book is an edited volume, put together by Jarosław Kuisz and Karolina Wigura, the editors of Kultura Liberalna, a Polish left liberal journal that is also the volume’s publisher. And it brings together six authors from across the Polish political spectrum—Rafał Matyja, Stefan Sękowski, Maciej Gdula, Tomasz Sawczuk (also with Kultura Liberalna), and Kuisz and Wigura themselves—who articulate interpretations of the current moment that are both similar and different, and who speak powerfully to each other across their differences.
We invited a group of Democracy Seminar participants from a range of countries to contribute to our symposium. Each was asked to comment on the book and the arguments contained within it, and to reflect on the Polish situation from the vantage point of their own experiences. Many colleagues agreed to contribute, but the personal challenges of 2020—the Year of the Plague—were many, and some of these colleagues were forced to drop out. The reviews included here offer perspectives from five different countries: Romania (Oana Băluță), Hungary (Szabolcs László), Slovakia (Dagmar Kusá), the U.S. (Jeffrey Goldfarb) and Poland itself (Helena Chmielewska-Szlajfer). Needless to say, each individual speaks only for themselves and not for the country in which they live, even as they reflect on the distinctive situation of the countries in which they live.