Krytyka Polityczna is the largest Central and Eastern European liberal network of institutions and activists. It was established in 2002 following the publication of an Open Letter titled, “The Open Letter to the European Public Opinion”, demanding a more open and integrated European policy from the Polish elites. Krytyka Polityczna consists of the online paper KrytykaPolityczna.pl, a quarterly magazine „Krytyka Polityczna”, a publishing house, cultural centres in Warsaw, Gdańsk and Cieszyn, activist clubs in a dozen cities throughout Poland as well as in Kiev and Berlin and a research centre: the Institute for Advanced Study in Warsaw.
Krytyka Polityczna are the contemporary heirs to the Central and Eastern European traditions of an engaged intelligentsia representing an ethos of public activity and creating a “social glue” through the use of social movements. This tradition dates back to the late 19th century, where the movements were charged with the task of modernising and developing society and was later revived during the 1970s and 1980s through dissident movements, which were seeking to empower society against authoritarian rule and to restore democracy, equality and personal freedoms. All of these movements have centred around building independent institutions, an orientation towards progressive social changes and a desire to maintain a strongly ethical approach.
History of the Association
Stanisław Brzozowski (1878-1911) is recognised as the one of the most pre-eminent Polish philosophers and literary critics of his generation as well as being a respected author of novels and plays and a charismatic advocate of the Polish intelligentsia at the beginning of the twentieth century. He died aged only 33 but by this time he had managed to write several books and hundreds of essays. His work and biography have become subjects of a century-long heated discussion among Polish intellectuals. It is almost impossible to find an important Polish intellectual who has not devoted a special work to Brzozowski. Leszek Kołakowski, Czesław Miłosz, Bronisław Baczko, Maria Janion, Andrzej Walicki, Andrzej Mencwel and Adam Michnik are only some of the most important people who were fascinated by Brzozowski and who have written about him.
Brzozowski himself was inspired by contemporary European thought. In his works he combined a lot of seemingly contradictory streams; for instance Nietzsche’s philosophy of deed with the ‘young’ Marxist analysis of social relations, or Sorel’s concept of myth with the philosophy of John H. Newman’s Catholic modernism and British romanticism. As an ardent historical materialist, Brzozowski opposed its deterministic version as well as any concepts reifying human beings.
From his youth he was fascinated by great Russian literature and ideas. Brzozowski discussed, among others, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, whose ‘Demons’ he confronted with his own novel, ‘Flames’. In this book he passionately demonstrated the horizon of ideas at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century, giving voice to critics of wild capitalism, traditionalism, feudal conservatism and clericalism. All of this was no mere testimony to the disputes of the foregone era. Considerations and discussions of the book’s protagonists, which include discussions over what it means to be Polish, the notion of the nation, as well as the ties between economy, culture, ideology and politics, still remain inspiring today.
Brzozowski was above all an acute cultural critic. He declared the necessity for the artist to engage in diagnosing the social reality of his times and in shaping social structure. After almost a hundred years his ideas are still relevant. He provides many tools critical of the liberal vision of the ‘end of history’, where the hegemony of the free market is supposedly an unconditioned necessity, where liberal democracy assumes a ban on thinking about social change, and where freedom is identified with unlimited consumption. Economic relations and working conditions are, according to Brzozowski, human products, and not consequences of any objective mechanisms; art and literature are testimonies to their times rather than of the independent mind of the artist. It is the duty of the intellectual to speak in favour of creating a better society, and to struggle for human subjectivity.
2002 – trailblazing beginnings
The Krytyka Polityczna journal exploded onto the Polish market, scalding a tired, routine-entrenched political environment, with the provocative and smouldering title: “Intelligentsia: helpless or dead?”
Zbigniew Bujak, a Solidarity movement legend, funded the first two editions of the journal. Later, Adam Michnik, a famous Polish writer, thinker, news editor, and activist, slyly commented and applauded the necessity of the question posed, claiming: “This is Zbyszek’s best financial decision, ever.”
The mass media gave the first issue enthusiastic, positive reviews. In support, “Gazeta Wyborcza” reprinted interviews conducted by Krytyka Polityczna journalists.
The first thousand printed copies sold out fast and so a second thousand were ordered. The next edition continued to provoke, with the title: “The Left, The Right – Language Confusion, Language Barriers,” and it included with the final text co-written by the famous dissidents and leaders of the anti-authoritarian opposition of the communist era, Jacek Kuroń and Karol Modzelewski: “Tomorrow’s Left: Sense and Sensibility.
2003 – Watch out, Europe – KP is here!
“An Open Letter to the European Public” is the title of the letter, written by Sławomir Sierakowski and sociologist Kinga Dunin, expressing support for the European Constitution project. The letter also protests against the Polish European policy of the time, which followed the motto, “Nice [the French city] or Death!” The letter was signed by 250 Polish intellectuals and was printed in both Polish and European newspapers, such as “Le Monde”, “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”, “Gazeta Wyborcza” and “Rzeczpospolita”. The letter found an activist audience at home and abroad, which succeeded in pushing Krytyka Polityczna into the wider, European political debate. A talk was held regarding the letter, where the signatories of the letter and Krytyka’s leaders met with the Polish president, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, the Minister of Foreign Affairs,Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz, and minister of European Affairs, Danuta Huebner. Krytyka Polityczna’s leader, Sławomir Sierakowski spoke rousingly in the name of those who signed the letter.
2004 – Homecoming: a flock of artists migrate to KP
Artists from many places and various disciplines began to collaborate Krytyka Polityczna. The relationships proved to be fruitful and fostered the social issues that Krytyka Polityczna focused on in its work. Over time, the number of artists, including visual artists, theatre practitioners, writers, musicians, and film producers working with Krytyka Polityczna increased. Some of Poland’s leading contemporary artistic minds are at the head of the movement: Olga Tokarczuk, Artur Żmijewski, Cezary Michalski, Jan Klata, Wilhelm Sasnal, Mariusz Sieniewicz, Jonna Rajkowska, Michał Zadara, Tomasz Piątek, Kaja Malanowska, Paweł Demirski, Monika Strzępka, and Yael Bartana.
Żmijewski took over the role of artistic editor for Krytyka Polityczna and was soon joined by Yael Bartana. The artistic group, Twożywo created a new visual form and a unique aesthetic to subsequent editions of the journal and later to the books published by Krytyka and the places where their events take place. Polish intellectuals and cultural activists such as Kazimiera Szczuka, Agnieszka Graff, Andrzej Przywara, Beata Stasińska, Maciej Nowak, Joanna Mytkowska, amongst others, became Krytyka’s guides to Polish culture as well as good friends of the organisation.
2005 – Be fruitful and multiply
Krytyka Polityczna announced the establishment of the Stanisław Brzozowski Association. This organisation would become the foundation upon which all other Krytyka Polityczna-related institutions were to be based on. From this point onwards, the activities of the Association were monitored by Dorota Głażewska.
Later, Maciej Gdula, Julian Kutyła, Maciej Kropiwnicki, Igor Stokfiszewski, Michał Sutowski, and others, joined the team as authors, translators and event organisers.
2006 – KP Ed-it: Read-it, Add-(to)-it, Fix-it, Change-it, Pass-it-on
The first Cultural Clubhouse in Warsaw was established. Meanwhile, the editorial activities of Krytyka Polityczna opened with a double event: the premier of Agnieszka Arnold’s film about Karol Modzelewski, titled, ‘Freedom without Censorship’, followed by a debate celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Workers’ Defence Committee.
Famous radical figures from the political, literary and artistic spheres were also hosted, such as philosophers Slavoj Žižek and Peter Singer. Other artists opened exhibitions, which were promoted by Krytyka, honouring their artistic achievements: for example the great literature historian Maria Janion celebrated 50 years of her work and Wilhelm Sasnal screened his some of his movies.
Krytyka organised exhibitions of leading Polish contemporary artists, such as Robert Rumas, Joanna Rajkowska, and Paweł Althamer.
2007 – KP publishing (in da’house)
In collaboration with the Kraków- based corporation Ha!art, the Political Critique Series was launcheed. The literary scene was hit with our first publication: Revolution at the Gates, by Slavoj Žižek. The book sparked fierce debate in the Polish media. A few months later, Krytyka announced the opening of its own, independent, publishing house. The first series to be printed by the new publishing house was a series of user guides to leftist politics.
Today, Krytyka’s publishing house publishes around 9 series and 40 books a year. We translate and publish stars from the world of humanities, such as Jacques Rancière, Bruno Latour, Judith Butler, Gilles Kepel, Alain Badiou, Manuel Castells, Harald Welzer, Gayatri Spivak, Chantal Mouffe, Gianni Vattimo, Boris Buden, Timothy Snyder, Yaroslav Hrytsak, Terry Eagleton and Zygmunt Bauman. We also publish modern Polish prose, plays, short stories, and political commentaries, as well classical writings by Polish dissidents, intellectuals and philosophers. The first volume in our Literary Series – Angels’ Final Sabbath, by Marian Pankowski – was awarded the prestigious Gdynia Literary Prize in 2008; one of our author’s, Paweł Demirski, was awarded the Paszport Polityki prize in 2010 for the most influential weekly opinion column.
The Clubhouse on Chmielna Street was named “Place of the Year, 2008” by journalists from ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’. Over the span of three years, the clubhouse hosted 300 events from discussions, lectures, workshops, seminars to exhibitions and film festivals which were all free, and open to the public.
2008 – Cultural clubhouses: from the people, for the people’ open
Local communities sympathising with our political goals, began to organise a programme of cultural events and social activist-ivities. They organised, coordinated, expanded, inspired, and collectively formed a web of Krytyka Polityczna Clubs all over Poland. Thanks to these local activists and Przemysław Wiśniewski and later Agnieszka Wiśniewska, the coordinators of our Clubs, Krytyka became active in Białystok, Bydgoszcz, Bytom, Cieszyn, Gniezno, Jelenia Góra, Kalisz, Katowice, Kraków, Lublin, Łódź, Opole, Szczecin, Poznań, Toruń, Włocławek, Szydłowiec, Gdańsk-Gdynia-Sopot, and Wrocław.
2009 – Brave New World!
Krytyka’s new Cultural Headquarters in Warsaw, brazenly named, “Brave New World” was opened. Clubhouses and cultural centres in Gdańsk-Gdynia-Sopot and Cieszyn were also opened.
The Stanisław Brzozowski Association won the rights to a 3-year rental agreement with the City of Warsaw for the new Cultural HQ at 63 Nowy świat. Michał Borucki and Izabela Jasińka were responsible for the grand opening and were later joined by Joanna Tokarz, Katarzyna Górna, Magda Majewska, and Bartek Modzelewski.
The Cultural HQ: Brave New World! soon became the greatest centre for and of, independent cultural activities in the capital of Poland, with concerts, debates, exhibitions, conferences, and other social and cultural activities, taking place daily.
Over three years, Krytyka organised over 1,000 events, and collaborated with over 100 different institutions and organisations. In Cieszyn, on Zamkowa Street and in Gdańsk, on Nowe Ogrody Street, local Krytyka Polityczna troupes formed cultural clubs and safe havens, led by Joanna Wowrzeczka, and Katarzyna Fidos, and were helped today by Agnieszka Muras, Maria Klaman, Marcin Chałupka and other local teams.
The 2009 Academic year saw the addition of seminars and debates being hosted by the newly unveiled Critical University, which were all free, and open to the public.
The dissemination and enthusiasm for our events, clubhouses, cultural centres, and the Critical University proved what we had been saying all along: that our questions, aims, discussions, goals, conversations, ideas, inspire many diverse groups of people from all over Poland. This is a national conversation, and is soon to become an international one.
2010 – Ukraine and beyond
Vasyl Czerepanyn and Oleksyj Radynski began publishing the Ukrainian edition of the Krytyka Polityczna journal, “Політична критика”, and supplemented it with a set programme of cultural and political events in Kiev. This heralded the beginning of Krytyka’s work in Ukraine. In order to cement this relationship, and foster mutual understanding, Krytyka published, ‘Political Critique’s Guide to the Ukraine’, a book-length interview with professor Yaroslav Hrytsak.
2011 – Ukraine, Russia Germany… Łódź
Krytyka’s new cultural house is opened in Łódź. The leaders are Hanna Gill-Piątek and Martyna Dominiak. In its first year, this cultural house received a local award, ‘Point for Łódź’, for its engagement with the Łódź local community.
In celebration of the Citizen’s Cultural Congress, and the European Cultural Congress, Krytyka printed the daily “Culture Courier”. We also organised a cultural project, House of Change, in the villa of the Dzieduszycki family in Wrocław.
2011 was the Year of Brzozowski, the patron of our Association, and the larger Krytyka Polityczna community.
2012 – We (let ourselves) eat cake
We celebrated our birthday, and announced the formation of two new institutions within Krytyka Polityczna.
These initiatives, the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) and Opinion Daily, were established in Autumn 2012. The IAS was inaugurated with a lecture by Zygmunt Bauman as a place for academic research and didactic activity. Soon it attracted hundreds of students who wanted to study. Opinion Daily was launched as a platform for high-quality journalism and from the very beginning inspired heated debates on culture, society and politics.
2013 – “Thinking about an international career”
By 2014, Krytyka had published 39 books, 3 issues of the Krytyka Polityczna magazine, had over 1100 new texts published on the Opinion Daily website with outreach of around 1 mln users a year and had organised over 400 socio-cultural events in Poland and Ukraine including debates, workshops, meetings with authors, film screenings, exhibitions as well 17 seminars at the Institute for Advanced Study and a series of economic lectures and two conferences. Further to this, Krytyka Polityczna developed our international platform by opening a Cultural Center in Kiev and launching an international website PoliticalCritique.org.
We join forces with our friends from Kiev Visual Culture Research Centre to open a culture centre in Kiev and we invite visitors to exhibitions and debates.
2014 – Jacek Kuroń Festival
„Action to me means passion, the sense of life. I have to act and do things – very important things beyond me and my life. Without activism I would be bored to death”. Jacek Kuroń
Jacek Kuroń continues to be vividly remembered, but rarely followed as an inspiration for critical thinking about contemporary Poland and future challenges. In fact, it was his remarkable passion for improving the world that formed the core of his political, social and, in the broadest sense, existential vision.
For two consecutive years Political Critique has held a festival dedicated to social-political debate and commemorating the work of Jacek Kuroń. The first Jacek Kuroń Festival took place in 2014 on the year of the 25th anniversary of the historical political shift in Poland and its first free elections. The second festival in 2015 focused on the challenge of solidarity in a diverse, but also deeply unequal society, as well as to the question how to mobilize and engage communities in collective actions.
The main idea of the festival revolves around the critical analysis of contemporary societies and global processes with reference to the topics and values Jacek Kuroń addressed throughout his lifetime, and which are linked to the challenges of the present.
We organize events with leading, inspiring thinkers, important for the Polish transformation: Jeffrey Sachs, Gianni Vattimo, Shana Penn, Radosław Sikorski, Gesine Schwan, Małgorzata Kowalska, Jarosław Hrycak, Timothy Snyder, Anne Applebaum, David Ost, Jerzy Osiatyński, Richard Sennet, Saskia Sassen, Thomas Meyer, Robert Biedroń, Barbara Nowacka, Karol Modzelewski, Guy Standing, Klaus Dörre, Dorota Szelewa, Ha Joon Chang, Marek Belka, Andrzej Leder, Agnieszka Graff, Masha Gessen, Marci Shore, Jaśmina Wójcik.
The festival programme includes exhibitions – an inspiring life-line with the thread of quotes and important milestones in Jacek Kuroń’s life, artistic commentaries on current inequalities and exclusion by Joanna Wowrzeczka and Marta Frej. There are also movie screenings, workshops for children, engaged walks with Danuta Kuroń, seminars and discussions.
2015 – Culture WITH the People, not Just FOR the People
We launch our Culture and Growth research project by opening a debate about the relations between social and economic capital. The conference attracts participants from Poland and abroad: Slovakia, Italy and Spain. A year later we embark on a new project of mapping cultural practices to explore their impact on growth.
We are fully aware of the importance of culture. On a local, community level, culture has become a language for describing the world, exploring history and environment. In Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski culture operators develop an exhibition bringing back to the public awareness the history of the local labour camp. To do so, they explore data collected by historians. Six months earlier the same group of people open a debate about Ostrowiec market-square, an expensive recently rebuilt granite desert. Local activists respond and begin infusing life into the place. We organize in Cieszyn the second Congress of Culture and … Communication.
2016 – Matchmaking
Krytyka Polityczna is a hub connecting people, ideas and organizations. We are matchmakers, bringing together academics and activists, journalists and community workers, champions of minority rights, economists and feminists, artists from Częstochowa and community activists from Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski. All of them exchange knowledge and their unique experiences and inspire one another. This is why each year we hold a Krytyka Polityczna networking meeting. Sine 2014, this has taken the form of an international Central & Eastern Europe Meeting of KP and Friends. Over 100 people from over ten countries meet in Cieszyn on the Czech-Polish border. We build relationships. Relationships lead to mutual trust and the trust is the social glue.
KrytykaPolityczna.pl online daily and PoliticalCritique.org online magazine
The online daily paper is the latest initiative of Krytyka Polityczna’s milieu and the Stanisław Brzozowski Association, published online and focused on presenting opinions rather than news or entertainment. It is an online daily oriented towards high-quality content, rather than clicking rate.
In response to the prevailing trend of media commercialization and subordination to the principles of mass-market culture, we see a chance for profound, high-quality journalism in the third sector that is not directly affected by the demands of the (advertising) market. It can be sustained by the financial (and other kinds of) support of the Association and all its institutions, from its network of clubs and activists, editorial team of the magazine and publishing house, through the resources of the Institute for Advanced Study.
KrytykaPolityczna.pl provides readers with commentary on current political events in Poland and abroad, publishes extended interviews and conversations on various topics, reviews, translations and excerpts from recently published books, film reviews and articles about various cultural events. One of the general principles is balancing global, regional and local topics. KrytykaPolityczna.pl publishes influential Polish authors: essayists, columnists, journalists, also film, theatre and literature critics; as well as foreign contributors, including Immanuel Wallerstein, Robert Reich, Paul De Grauwe, Dani Rodrik, Zygmunt Bauman, Timothy Snyder, Ulrich Beck, Ivan Krastev, Naomi Klein, Slavoj Žižek, Judith Butler, Thomas Piketty, Paul Mason, and many more.
In parallel to the quarterly magazine, the role of KrytykaPolityczna.pl is not only to convey opinion and present ideas, but also to attract contributors, professional as well as amateur journalists and local community leaders, and to gather them around this project. In short, KrytykaPolityczna.pl serves as a milieu-building platform.
In 2014 we launched PoliticalCritique.org, the English-language version of our website, and its Ukrainian counterpart: Ukraine.politicalcritique.org. Both sites publish translations of KrytykaPolityczna.pl articles for foreign readers and locally curated content developed by editorial teams in Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Germany, the UK, Ukraine and Russia. Additionally, there are photo essays, audio- and video-recordings. The Political Critique project aims to go beyond the Polish context and create a modern accessible platform for sharing information about cultural, political, and socioeconomic stories and practices in East-Central Europe. Its goal is to create a hub for critical opinion, reporting, and comments on the situation both in Poland and in the Central and Eastern European region.
In the nearest future we plan to develop a Russian version of PoliticalCritique.org, in order to expand its impact onto international readers, especially in Eastern Europe.
“Krytyka Polityczna” printed magazine
Krytyka Polityczna is a quarterly magazine launched in 2002, published in Polish and, since 2011, also in Ukrainian. Besides its content and the topics discussed, it has played a milieu-building role, grouping people around a shared project, attracting contributors from different fields and building an inspiring intellectual atmosphere, igniting a growing movement of activists and sympathisers, which later developed into further institutions. This is how it began in Poland, and in Ukraine as well.
The magazine focuses on the most important phenomena and trends in today’s politics, culture and society. One of its main premises was to level the artificial boundaries between politics, arts and humanities. Krytyka Polityczna publishes the most relevant authors in the fields of sociology (Zygmunt Bauman, Nancy Fraser, Pierre Bourdieu, Immanuel Wallerstein, Ulrich Beck, Richard Sennett, Claus Offe, Wolfgang Streeck), philosophy (Jürgen Habermas, Slavoj Žižek, Chantal Mouffe, Giorgio Agamben, Sheila Benhabib, Peter Sloterdijk, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Ernesto Laclau, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Pierre Manent, Carl Schmitt, Jacob Taubes, Gayatri Spivak, Brian Massumi, Judith Butler), economy (Thomas Piketty, James K. Galbraith), theory of art and culture (Georges Didi-Huberman, Terry Eagleton, Jacques Ranciere, Hito Steyerl, Hayden White, Renzo Martens, Yael Bartana, Harun Farocki), literature (Michel Houellebecq, Wiktor Pielewin, Jonathan Safran Foer, Arundhati Roy, Leslie Kaplan, and many young Polish writers), as well as social activists and politicians (Srdja Popović, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, Radek Sikorski, Antanas Mockus and others), and it always strives to combine and confront different perspectives.
Krytyka Polityczna has had over 40 Polish and 6 Ukrainian issues, as well as special editions in Russian, English and German, and has covered an impressively wide range of topics: from the legacy of the intelligentsia in the modern era, to the hidden exclusiveness of the liberal public sphere, rising inequalities, the relevance of the left-right divide today, the legacy of the 1968 revolution, the equally constructed character of history and futurology, love as a political force, different forms of political violence, the potential of imaginative utopia as a political force, hidden forms of social segregation, modernization of India, the myth of Russia or the Chinese model and its discontents. The magazine has also had special ‚visual’ issues, embodying the idea of a direct intersection between the arts, social science and political critique, and developed by art-directors Artur Żmijewski and Yael Bartana.
The Publishing House of Krytyka Polityczna was established in September 2007, with a mission to bring into the Polish public sphere the most important works on philosophy, political, social and cultural theory, as well as to publish original societal and cultural diagnoses by Polish authors. We publish translations, new books as well as renewed editions of classical works in literature and theory. As of 2015 we have published nearly 250 titles and over 9 book series (Readers, Ideas, Canon, Commentary, Literature, History, Economics, Non-tourist Guides, Political Writings of Jacek Kuroń, Vaclav Havel’s Writings).
We were among the first in Poland to introduce new political and social theories (in books by Zygmunt Bauman, Gayatri Spivak, Seyla Benhabib, Ha-Joon Chang, Terry Eagleton, Chantal Mouffe, Bruno Latour, Giorgio Agamben, Jacques Ranciere, Slavoj Žižek, Judith Butler, Alain Badiou), new historical perspectives (in books by Timothy Snyder, Tony Judt, Eric Hobsbawm, Boris Kagarlitsky, Daniel Sidorick, Krzysztof Tomasik, and Yaroslav Hrytsak), critical analyses of various social phenomena (like Taxes, Public Health, Cultural Policy, etc.) or art and music (first Polish monographs on Karlheinz Stockhausen, Gerard Grisey, Luigi Nono, 21st century opera, etc.). In 2015 we published the worldwide bestseller in economics, The Capital in 21st Century by Thomas Piketty, heavily commented in Polish electronic media and press. We also re-edit classical works of literature and political writings, including works by Polish dissidents: Jacek Kuroń and Jan Józef Lipski; essays on Stanisław Brzozowski, Polish philosopher and culture critic, as well as classical philosophy by Adorno and Horkheimer. Moreover, we address to the most recent phenomena in politics and society by releasing books covering the Economic Crisis in USA and Europe, Occupy! and Indignados movements or the (cultural) phenomenon of Polish mourning after the 2010 Smolensk plane crash and many others. We also publish important works on Jewish and Polish wartime memory (by Grzegorz Niziołek, Elżbieta Janicka) and on Poland’s post-war cultural and social modernisation (by Andrzej Leder, Adam Leszczyński, Henryk Domański).
Our book releases are always accompanied by intensive social and cultural campaigns (in our network of clubs and cultural centres, and IAS in Warsaw), on the Internet (on the Dziennik Opinii website and various social networks), in traditional media (especially major general and cultural press titles and opinion-leading radio stations) and outdoor advertising. Several hundred copies of each publication are sent to opinion-leading circles in Poland: intellectuals, scholars, journalists, politicians and social activists. Many of our books are not only reviewed, but also discussed in the major media; some of them have become a source of inspiration for social movements and various forms of civic activity.
Since images and other media are just as relevant to us as the words, our books books are produced in co-operation with recognized artists (Wilhelm Sasnal, Artur Żmijewski, Twożywo group and others).
Institute for Advanced Study Warsaw
Institute for Advanced Study Warsaw was established for research and educational activities in the area of fundamental problems of contemporary culture. The main idea behind its founding was to create an environment conducive to searching for responses to the current crisis of liberal democracy, springing from the crisis of social bonds and collective imagination.
Since the 2012 opening lecture by Prof. Zygmunt Bauman Wyzwania stulecia (Century Challenges) we have organized dozens of seminars on a broad variety of themes in social economy: Podstawy polityki gospodarczej: ujęcie ekonomii postkeynesowskiej (Economic Policy Basics: Post-Keynesian Economy Approach) delivered by former Minister of Finance, Prof. Jerzy Osiatyński and Prof. Kazimierz Łaski; philosophy of culture, e.g. Prześniona rewolucja. Co może psychoanalityczna teoria krytyczna wnieść do rozumienia historii Polski? (Dreamed Revolution. Psychoanalytic Critical Theory and the Understanding of Polish History) by Prof. Andrzej Leder, Tożsamość Ducha: Ruach? Spiritus? Geist? Spectre? (The Identity of Spirit: Ruach? Spiritus? Geist? Spectre?) by Prof. Agata Bielik-Robson; social policy and feminism: Co się stało z drugą falą (What Happened to the Second Wave?) by Agnieszka Graff, PhD, Gender w polityce społecznej (Gender in Social Policy) by Dorota Szelewa, PhD; analysis of contemporary social movements in Poland and abroad: Miasto–przestrzeń–własność (City – Space – Property) by Joanna Erbel and Przemysław Sadura, PhD, Jesień arabskiego średniowiecza. Zmiany społeczno-polityczne w świecie arabskim w XXI wieku (Autumn of Arab Middle Ages. Socio-Political Changes in the 21st Century Arab World) by Patrycja Sasnal, PhD; and many others.
IAS open lectures and debates have given thousands of people direct access to experts, decision-makers and intellectuals of the highest order, such as Timothy Snyder, Jeffrey Sachs, Richard Sennett, Gesine Schwan, Slavoj Žižek, Guy Standing, Saskia Sassen, Ivan Krastev, former president of Poland Aleksander Kwaśniewski, President of National Bank of Poland, Marek Belka, Claus Offe or Susan Buck-Morss.
In the following years we launched projects in theoretical studies and empirical research into various aspects of cultural practices in the Polish society. In the project Praktyki kulturowe klasy ludowej (Cultural Practices in Working Class) a team of sociologists lead by Maciej Gdula, PhD, Przemysław Sadura, PhD, and Mikołaj Lewicki, PhD, conducted field research that produced a report with recommendations for decision-makers and culture professionals, about the instruments for maximizing social cultural inclusion.
The institute’s flagship in the recent years has been Kultura i rozwój (Culture and Development), a project conducted under the auspices of former Minister of Economy, Prof. Jerzy Hausner and Igor Stokfiszewski. The three-year seminar programme and conferences (2013, 2014) involved a broad empirical research into grassroot cultural initiatives in Poland and their relations with official public institutions. The project resulted in a comprehensive diagnosis on the relationship between culture, economy and democratic social growth in the context of civilizational challenges faced by contemporary Poland.
Political Critique Cultural Centres, Clubs, actions
A network of cultural centres (Warszawa, Gdańsk, Cieszyn, Kiev) and clubs in Poland serves as a platform for fostering integration and social commitment among the hundreds of people working with Krytyka Polityczna. They organise public campaigns, local interventions in urban space, run cultural centres for underprivileged groups, debate new ideas and current problems that appear in the public sphere.
The first of the cultural centres was REDakcja, established in September 2006 in Warsaw. It served as an open house for the exchange for ideas, debate, training, workshops, art exhibitions, as well as for presenting social and political projects. The general idea was to erase the boundaries between science, arts and politics. REDakcja was a place in which artists were inspired to think and act in political terms and officials were encouraged to treat culture as a language crucial for shaping the entire society. REDakcja held around 300 open meetings with politicians (including the Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen), writers (including Olga Tokarczuk), former dissidents (Karol Modzelewski), intellectuals (Peter Singer and Slavoj Žižek) and artists (Yoko Ono and Rene Pollesch), artists (Joanna Rajkowska and Wilhelm Sasnal). In over three years REDakcja became become one of the most important cultural centres of the Polish capital.
In November 2009 Krytyka Polityczna moved to new headquarters. Centrum Kultury Nowy Wspaniały Świat (Brave New World Cultural Centre) was situated in the centre of Warsaw. It housed one of the city’s most popular clubs and cafés as well as being the venue of numerous cultural events. We invited over 50 other NGOs invited to cooperate with us, mostly active in the fields of human rights, minorities’ and women’s rights. In Brave New World weheld multiple open lectures and workshops on philosophy, literature, mass culture and history. Moreover, the Cultural Centre organised over 1,600 cultural events, including 120 concerts and performances, movie screenings as well as lectures and debates, inviting audiences to meet well-known politicians such as former Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski, former Prime Ministers Tadeusz Mazowiecki and Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, intellectuals such as Zygmunt Bauman, Slavoj Žižek, Michael Walzer, Marshall Berman, Claus Offe, Harald Welzer as well as artists such as Agnieszka Holland, Artur Żmijewski, and Joanna Rajkowska. In 2012 a large part of these activities moved to the newest headquarters of Krytyka Polityczna, Foksal 16, Warsaw.
Very shortly after the launch of REDakcja, with the help of friends, well-wishers and associates of Krytyka Polityczna, we began launching Political Critique Clubs in other Polish cities, organising debates, movie screenings, social campaigns, local interventions in urban space and other events.
In Gniezno we organized three an open-air exhibitions (2014–2016), accompanied by a debate Ghosts of transformation; we collaborate to the Offeliada Film Festival and every year we give award with Stanisław Brzozowski Award to director of one of the presented movies.
In Wrocław we covered medially the Romanian Roma litigation and co-organised a round table discussion with the participation of non-governmental organisations, representatives of local authorities, and experts.
In Opole we organized the exhibition What Cannot Be Seen, presenting socially engaged art with works of contemporary artists such as Joanna Wowrzeczka and Marta Frej.
We organised Democracy 4.0 workshops in Warsaw, Łódź, Rzeszów, Lublin, and Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski.
In 2015 we launched a web browser of female experts Ekspertki.org to provide an useful tool for journalists and public debates organizers’ easier contact to expert in specific topics in order to fight exclusion of women from public debate or media. We organized workshops to journalists and local curators in Kraków, Poznań, Rzeszów, Lublin, Gniezno, Koszalin, Szczecin, Cieszyn and Gdańsk.
Over the years, many of Krytyka Polityczna clubs grew into the bases for other organizations which established friendly relations with Krytyka Polityczna. Simultaneously with the growth of the KP clubs network, we developed partnerships with associations, foundations, and non-formal groups in several cities around Poland.
In subsequent years we established three new cultural centres outside Warsaw: in Gdańsk, Cieszyn and in Łódź (2011–2015). All three have their own venues in which they regularly hold meetings, debates, movie screenings and artistic performances. They invite intellectuals, journalists and experts, and sometimes celebrities to speak to local audiences and address locally relevant questions, as well as discuss general problems of culture and society. The new KP cultural centres soon became prominent landmarks in the socio-cultural landscapes of their respective cities. In Łódź the centre regularly holds urban space social consultations sessions, engaging community members, local activists and city officials in debates about the future of urban development. Similarly in Gdańsk, the Krytyka Polityczna club is an important venue for debates also on the subjects of local history and minorities. Moreover, it is also instrumental in helping various NGOs and activists in the development of an anti-drug policy. The centre in Cieszyn, located in the former Polish-Czech border control building on the river Olza, besides running events typical for centres in Łódź and Gdańsk, also undertakes regular community work with children and young people from underprivileged environments, as well as inspiring community education policies projects.
Since 2010 Krytyka Polityczna has been present in Ukraine, with a club in Kiev and a group of activists in Lviv. In 2014 we opened a KP Cultural Centre in Kiev. Krytyka Polityczna in Kiev, run in cooperation with the Visual Culture Research Centre, organises debates, lectures (for example with Zygmunt Bauman) and exhibitions focusing mainly on the political dimension of art and the cultural dimensions of the post-communist transformation, involving citizens in opposition against the privatisation of urban spaces in Ukraine. A broad group of activists has been managing the Ukrainian edition of Krytyka Polityczna magazine, with six issues published since 2011. Since 2014 Ukrainian Krytyka Polityczna has had been also published online on www.ukraine.politicalcritique.org
In 2011–2012 Krytyka Polityczna ran a series of debates on the political dimension of art, and a number of other events in Berlin, in close cooperation with Berliner Kunstwerke and the great art festival Berlin Biennale, managed by Artur Żmijewski, the artistic director of Krytyka Polityczna magazine.
Central and Eastern Europe Agora Meeting in Cieszyn
Held annually in August, Central and Eastern Europe Meeting in Cieszyn, a project of Krytyka Polityczna and its milieu, has been a celebration, a feast, an occasion for summing up the year’s activities, and discussing plans for the future. In 2014 and 2105 they were an occasion to meet friends. We invited fellow organisations from Poland and abroad to Cieszyn to get to know one another, learn from one another, give one another a high five, and discuss changing the world for the better, as we know this is something in which we all share a keen interest.
Most participants of the Cieszyn events are activists, academics and journalists from Central and Eastern Europe. The region has been an obvious point of reference from the start. It is our place of origin, a tradition in which we were brought up (socially involved intelligencia) and where we deliver our activities. Operating on the borders of Schengen zone, collaborating with countries outside the EU is what we do on a daily basis. We invite friends from Western and Southern Europe to Cieszyn to inspire, learn from and listen to one another, to get a thorough understanding of the local contexts.
We have always viewed operating in a network, working with other activists and friendly organizations as a space for building relationships. Our term for it is “the making of social glue.”
How do we go about it? Through working together towards the change of political discourse and installing leftist thinking into social debate. Each undertaking to achieve this goal means hours of work as a team: research, preparations, sometimes heated debates, and finally execution. We consider those hours spent together equally important as our shared ideas. The patron of our Association, Polish philosopher Stanisław Brzozowski wrote: “What is not biography – is nothing at all.” It is doing things together that is our biography.
Krytyka Polityczna is a platform that brings together people, ideas and organisations. We are matchmakers for all sorts of people. We network academics and organisers, journalists and social activists, people fighting for minority rights and economists, artists and social activists. All those people learn from one another, inspire and share their unique experiences. Sociologists and artists use different tools, but if they all sit down together to explain and demonstrate them, they may learn something that would not cross their minds if they remained separate, each group in their own world. This sort of “matchmaking” helps a lot of people we meet get to know one another. That, among other things, is why we invite our friends to Cieszyn each year.
Over a hundred people from 12 European countries gathered in Cieszyn in 2014. During the four-day event we talked about the identity of Eastern Europe and the current situation in Ukraine. In a series of workshops we shared our daily work experiences, regarding culture, democracy, tolerance for minorities, urban space rights, relationships with the state, strategies for social and political movements as well as gender studies.
130 participants from 18 countries attended the meeting in 2015 (Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Moldova, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, Spain, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, USA, Netherland, Bulgaria, Romania, UK, Ireland). The programme consisted of discussions of Poland’s political situation, a series of group discussions on topics such as new political actors in Europe, migrants and refugees, fighting non-traditional authoritarian regimes, reproductive rights in Eastern Europe, the role and purpose of journalism, and the precariat. The programme also included a lecture by Michał Sutowski on solidarity in Europe.