Darmowy fragment publikacji:
Kaja Kaźmierska, Katarzyna Waniek – University of Łódź, Faculty of Economics and Sociology
Department of Sociology of Culture, 90-214 Łódź, Rewolucji 1905 r. Street no. 41/43
Anna Dolińska and Mirosław Koprianiuk, Lidia Kowalczyk
NATIVE SPEAKER AND PROOFREADING
Jonathan Caspir Lilly
Munda – Maciej Torz
Paweł M. Sobczak
Polkadot Studio Graficzne
Aleksandra Woźniak, Hanna Niemierowicz
Cover photo by Aleksandra Wysokińska
The book has received funding from the National Science Center, Poland under grant agreement
No. UMO-2013/09/B/HS6/03100 “Experience of the Process of the Transformation in Poland.
A Sociological Comparative Analysis Based on Biographical Perspective”
© Copyright by Authors, Łódź 2020
© Copyright for this edition by University of Łódź, Łódź 2020
Published by Łódź University Press
First edition. W.09081.19.0.K
Publisher’s sheets 45.0; printing sheets 40.75
For Professor Fritz Schütze
Foreword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Jacek Burski, Joanna Wygnańska
Part 1. Introduction: “Telling the Great Change…”. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Chapter I. Methodological note . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Chapter II. Winners and losers of the process of transformation
as an etic category versus an emic biographical perspective . . . . . .
Chapter III. Narrative agency and structural chaos.
A biographical-narrative case study . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Part 2. From PPR to systemic transformation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103
Chapter IV. The experience of systemic transformation in
contemporary biographical narratives of older Poles . . . . . . . . . . . .
Chapter V. Social innovators in coping with social problems
– PPR, systemic transformation, and new Poland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Chapter VI. Life of things from the perspective of the Polish
systemic transformation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Chapter VII. Paradoxes of ideological privileges – a case study
of a female textile worker from Łódź . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Chapter VIII. The process of acquiring and developing a critical
attitude towards the socialist regime in Poland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Chapter IX. A new logic of power, old biographical patterns of
action. Case study of Weronika’s life history . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Agnieszka Golczyńska-Grondas, Katarzyna Waniek
Part 3. Transforming opportunity structures: biographical
chances, hopes, illusions, and dead-ends . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 281
Chapter X. Biographical traps of the transformation process
– cohort 1980. The potentials of disorder and suffering in the
experiences of young Polish women entering social worlds of art,
medicine, and academia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Chapter XI. Transformation and the biographical experiences of
healthcare workers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Jacek Burski, Katarzyna Waniek
Chapter XII. “Twist of fate”: declining and rising lines of
occupational career in the biographical experiences of two
engineers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Part 4. Biographical resources: family and social networks . . . . . . 425
Agnieszka Golczyńska-Grondas, Małgorzata Potoczna
Chapter XIII. A trap of systemic changes – Pola’s biographical drift . .
Chapter XIV. Narratives rooted in family milieu. Case studies
of Agnieszka and Paweł focused on the family thread as the
biographical resource and main story-line . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Jacek Burski, Joanna Wygnańska
Chapter XV. A biographical experience of the yard as a symbolic
biographical resource . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Chapter XVI. (Re)creating bonds in the local environment
– a contrastive comparison of two life strategies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Kaja Kaźmierska, Katarzyna Waniek
Conclusions – Understanding transformation as a social change
stretched in time and space . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Appendix . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Transcription Notation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
List of narrators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Notes about the Authors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
In analyzing the experiences and attitudes of an individual we always reach
data and elementary facts which are not exclusively limited to this individual s
personality but can be treated as mere instances of more or less general classes
of data or facts, and can thus be used for the determination of laws of social
becoming. Whether we draw our materials for sociological analysis from detailed
life-records of concrete individuals or from the observation of mass-phenomena,
the problems of sociological analysis are the same. But even when we are searching
for abstract laws life-records of concrete personalities have a marked superiority
over any other kind of materials.
(Thomas, Znaniecki 1919: 6).
The book presents results of the research project titled: Experience of the
Process of the Transformation in Poland. A Sociological Comparative Analysis Based
on Biographical Perspective funded by the National Science Center in Poland
(No. UMO-2013/09/B/HS6/03100). The project was conducted in the
Department of Sociology of Culture (University of Łódź) in 2014–2019. The
research team included: Kaja Kaźmierska (principal investigator), Katarzyna
Waniek, Jacek Burski, Joanna Wygnańska (from the University of Łódź), Piotr
Filipkowski (IFiS PAN) and Maciej Melon.
The publication is a result of many years of collecting and studying the
empirical material and developing our reflection on the issue of the great
systemic transformation that we have intended to know from the perspective of
individuals and analyze their biographical experiences told in autobiographical
renderings. Its content is based on analysis of huge biographical data
collected in 90 autobiographical narrative interviews. Thus we would like to
thank our interlocutors for the effort of sharing with us their life histories. We
were listening to them carefully in the hope that we could reconstruct the socio-
biographical process of “the Great Change” from individual experiences. As
a result we have got many biographical accounts from different parts of Poland
in which the systemic transformation could be seen from various, but always
bottom up, perspectives. As it happened in our other projects, the social process
was more recognized in individuals’ life strategies, decisions, motivation than
presented straightforwardly by articulating attitudes towards, evaluation of,
referring to the process of the systemic transformation. Thus we aim here at
presenting a wide spectrum of issues and phenomena that during the process
of analysis attracted our attention. For sure we have not figured the problem
out. On the contrary, we feel like just touching a complex matter. However, we
hope that the findings presented in the book will complement and enrich the
universe of the sociological, political and public discourse.
The majority of the applied material and chapters are based on the
project implementation. Nevertheless, in order to fill in the gaps and show
the multidimensionality of the process under investigation, we sometimes refer
to collections of interviews gathered by our team members in other projects. We
especially have in mind two of them: Biography and National Identity based on
life stories of Poles who experienced WWII and the project The People’s Republic
of Poland and the German Democratic Republic in Memory and Biographical
Experiences of People Born between 1945–1955. Sociological comparison based on
the biographical comparison.1 As a result of these projects, the Department of
Sociology of Culture disposes of more than 200 narratives with people born in
the following decades of the 20th century, beginning with the oldest narrator
born in 1909 and the youngest in 1988. This rich empirical material, in relation
to the past two projects, is used in the book only episodically, but it provides
us with important empirical data and the analytical and theoretical inspirations
that accompanied us as background knowledge while working on this book.
Another project which we also refer to, but in a slightly narrower way, is Euro
Identities – the evolution of European identity: using biographical methods to study
the development of European identity.2
We also invited other authors who, using a biographical approach, studied
these aspects of social reality that could very well complement the complex
picture of transformation processes. Thus we invited Renata Dopierała whose
text is based on the project materials, Agnieszka Golczyńska-Grondas who
contributed to the analysis of “pre”-transformation period, Danuta Życzyńska-
Ciołek implementing, so importantly for us, time and generation perspective
and last but not least Agnieszka Golczyńska-Grondas and Małgorzata Potoczna
who, referring to other biographical research and data, focused on the issue of
poverty and lower class as these kind of data, what we regret, were not that easy
to be collected in our project. Thus the authors of two texts analyze different
materials yet representing biographical data. Our motivation to include these
analyses did not stem from the desire to “fill” the book – which is very thick
anyway – but from the idea of showing the most multi-threaded view of the
transformations from a biographical research perspective. In our analysis we
consequently try to apply the approach to biographical materials, which is based
on the methodological and theoretical concept of autobiographical narrative
interview developed by Fritz Schütze. Nevertheless, we left the invited authors
free-hand to present their analytical approaches as we find it as one of the main
assumptions in the process of analysis, believing that “the researcher is solely
responsible for his or her own product, when acquiring descriptive writing
1 The first research was conducted in the early 90s. The department of Sociology
of Culture at the University of Łódź (Czyżewski, Piotrowski, Rokuszewska-Pawełek
1996, Dopierała, Waniek ed. 2016) and the second project was financed by the Polish-
German Scientific Foundation (PNFN 2012-03) implemented in 2012–2015 by the
Department of Sociology of Culture of the University of Łódź and the Otto-von-
Guericke University in Magdeburg, funded by the Polish-German Foundation for
Science (Kaźmierska, Schütze 2013).
2 The project (2008–2011) was implemented as part of the 7th Research
Framework Program of the European Commission (Nr 213998). Polish team: Andrzej
Piotrowski, Kaja Kaźmierska, Katarzyna Waniek (Miller, Gray eds. 2012).
skills and developing one’s own style of description” (Riemann, Schütze 1987:
9). In other words, he or she has a right to speak his/her own voice and we do
not treat this as a kind of methodological inconsequence.
The book consists of four parts: the first one plays the role of introduction
both to the project theoretical and methodological assumptions and the social
background of described phenomena and processes. The second presents
social and historical background and it is based on the conviction that the
main character of social process is an emergent overlapping of phenomena
and constant change, which assumes an evolutionary rather than revolutionary
change of form. The third part examines different aspects and interpretation
of opportunity structures that have appeared due to the systemic change in
Poland. The fourth part refers to biographical resources which can be considered
as stable, traditional, social frames. We intended to show if, how, and in what
direction they have changed.
How to read the book? We are aware that it is a very extensive monograph
– the following parts are subordinated to the logic of a holistic concept showing,
first of all, the process-oriented approach to social phenomena. Thus we would
be very satisfied if the reader would read the whole book. At the same time, we
realize that he/she may be interested in some of its parts, threads, or themes.
It is one of the reasons why we decided to precede each part with a preface,
in which its main ideas coming from material analysis and its theoretical
conceptualization are outlined. We also offer short introductory remarks to
chapters included in each part of the book.
We would like to express our acknowledgements to many people. First of
all once more we are grateful to our narrators. Since the biographical research
demand seminar and workshop work over the last few years we invited many
scholars experienced in qualitative research studies and biographical research
in particular. We would like to thank here: Fritz Schütze, Gerhard Riemann,
Lena Inowlocki, Anja Wildhagen, Markieta Domecka, Adam Mrozowicki,
Mateusz Karolak, Rafael Mrówczyński, Ina Alber, Andrzej Piotrowski, Marcin
Gońda, Kamila Biały, Agnieszka Golczyńska-Grondas, Patrycja Kruczkowska
and Jakub Gałęziowski for their valuable criticism, inspiring comments,
interesting reflections and any other kind of scientific support.
Jacek Burski, Joanna Wygnańska
“TELLING THE GREAT CHANGE…”
N(arrator): I came of age in 1987, so it was the decline of the system, but there was still
a system, and then the whole issue of the systemic, socio-economic transformation,
er, which on the one hand I missed as far as Polish ground is concerned, on the
other, I became its kind of beneficiary because, because there were opportunities to
go abroad and study and generally to pursue a career abroad. These days … if I was
to look at it, then… er… everything looks less optimistic than solely the question of
my personal case, but/ but again, you know, considering the age group I belong to/
N: Well, ‘cause in our generation it was quite easy in my opinion to be optimistic.
And there was, there was this optimism at the beginning of the 1990s, it was such
an enthusiasm for this new reality, that it often seemed to us that with entering,
for example, with the enlargement of the European Union, that it was such
a fulfilment, and here you are – history has mocked us and we are living in very
turbulent times, and nothing is certain, I do not know if we are returning to the
At the beginning of our reflection, we quoted the above fragment of one of
the interviews collected in our project. The narrator, Marcel,2 in this passage
of his biography indicates several dimensions of his biographical experience
1 For transcription notation see: Appendix.
2 The interview was conducted in 2016. The narrator, born in 1969, comes from an
intellectual family. He has experience of living and working abroad connected with his
career course (he is a researcher in the field of humanities). At the time of recording
the interview, he had been living with his wife and son abroad for three years. What’s
important, at the moment of the interview he is looking for a job and in his narrative,
Part 1. Introduction: “Telling the Great Change…”
related to the social processes involved in the dynamics of economic, social,
and cultural changes which happened in Poland after the year 1989. Therefore,
the reference framework for the threads discussed in the above fragment is,
on the one hand, the process of the economic and political change in Poland.
On the other, it also refers to the process of Poland’s integration with the
European Union, presented from the perspective of the opportunities which it
opened for the representatives of, among others, Marcel’s generation.
In this short quote, we can also hear references to the phenomenon of
transition from socialism to capitalism and to the democratization process,
which in Marcel’s argument were associated with optimism and waiting for
the final shape of the changes initiated with the fall of socialism. Finally, the
narrator also refers to the processes characteristic of late modernity. The quoted
passage also resonates with a certain duality of Marcel’s biographical experience.
Placing himself on the one hand as the beneficiary of the transformation
process, he sees a palette of opportunities which the changes taking place in
Poland in the 1990s and 2000s created for the formation of his biographical
identity. However, at the same time, he points to, as he says, a kind of trap of
history and the troubling reality of modern times. He then shows the difficulty
of considering the transformation process in Poland without referring to this
period from the contemporary perspective. From the biographical “now” and
with this comparative reference it is possible to see the influence of the great
change which happened in Poland on the individual biographical experience.
Thus, with the reference to the contemporary reflection, Marcel is asking
himself, in terms of our study, an important question concerning the dynamics
of the transformational and post-transformational processes. Therefore, this
short fragment touches the issues of the wider perspective connected with
the social processes, as well as the phenomena allocated in contemporary
social realities. Going beyond Marcel’s words, we can indicate here the social
phenomena as the globalization process, the development of capitalism and the
neoliberal way of thinking.
Thus, we quoted this fragment of the interview with Marcel also in order
to briefly outline the possibilities of connecting the individual biographical
experience with the collective mechanisms of impact, which is an important
assumption of the biographical methodology used in our study. Even such
a short passage from an autobiographical narrative interview allows us to
capture many threads in which the narrator’s biography is involved. It also
he’s also taking up the reflection on his life regarding the situation where he sees himself
as the “product” of those chances given to Polish society after 1989. At the same time,
despite being well educated and experienced he still cannot feel the stability on the
current labor market. So, those “turbulent times” he is talking about in the quoted
fragment are also the frame for his current (time of the interview) situation.
Part 1. Introduction: “Telling the Great Change…”
enables us to reconstruct the way one is talking about the great change and
the attitudes towards it presented in collected biographies. In Marcel’s case,
from this short quote from his autobiographical narrative and in relation to
his whole story, we can see that his narration is “rooted in history.”3 This means
that when referring to, interpreting, and reconstructing his biographical
experience, he often relates it to specific phenomena within a broader
historical and social context. In such a narrative, thus, the descriptions of the
interlocutor’s experiences appear “in relation to argumentative structures
of a historical nature (but also macro-social or ideological)” (Piotrowski
2016: 241). To support this assumption and to bring to this short discussion
of the quoted fragment of Marcel’s interview, one more context is worth
mentioning that in his biography he presents a long story of his grandfather
who was born at the end of the 19th century. Thus, he experienced both the
First and Second World War and the period of communism. From Marcel’s
perspective, it is an extremely important thread for shaping his biographical
However, returning to the quoted passage, it shows many aspects of our
perception of the transformation process in Poland. As researchers analyzing
the biographical experience of that time, like Marcel in the cited piece of his
life story, we wonder whether the transformational and post-transformational
reality can be treated as a separate time frame. We assume that the analysis of
the biographical experience of the transformation process does not overlap
with certain more or less specific temporal caesuras. In other words, besides the
conventional date of the year 1989, our reflection concerns the course of the
transformation reconstructed and interpreted in the biographical experiences
of our narrators. Additionally, the study of the 904 collected interviews point
to the analysis of the time of transformation in relation to the contemporary
perspective and the perspective of the experience of the Polish People’s
3 The other type of analytical category is called: “rootedness in milieu,” where more
important for building one’s biographical narrative are comments and argumentative
constructions which are referring to the local community and local environment
context in which the narrator is framing his or her biographical experience (Piotrowski
2016). We decided to translate a Polish word “zakorzenienie” as “rooted” rather than
“embedded” since we refer here to existing tradition of thinking still alive in the
Department of Sociology of Culture, University of Łódź. For instance, the title of
Antonina Kłoskowska’s book Kultury narodowe u korzeni was translated into English
as National Cultures at the Grass-root Level. We believe that defining “rooted in milieu”
or “rooted in history” as “developed from…” and “strongly influenced by” (https://
www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/rooted) either milieu or history better
reflects our way of reasoning.
4 See Methodological note (Chapter I).
Part 1. Introduction: “Telling the Great Change…”
Republic socialistic reality.5 Those mentioned social realities are important for
understanding the multifacetedness of our approach to telling the great change.
Marcel also speaks about “living in turbulent times” and refers here to a very
current, as we can say post-transformational perspective. Yet, his considerations
about “going back to the starting point” evoke the past perspectives as well. In
this optics, our analysis aims to reconstruct the links between telling the end
of one era (socialist one) and the beginning of a new political, economic, and
cultural social reality from the bottom-up perspective of individual biographical
experiences and their interplay with collective processes (Schütze 1989, 1992a:
192), not from the top-down point of view or a normative perspective in which
people act determined by their social “equipment” acquired in the socialization
process and their position within the division of labor manifesting itself in their
roles and statuses (Piotrowski 1998: 132). Moreover, what should be stressed at
the beginning of this book, not each of our narrators used the terms: “systemic
transformation,” “political transformation,” “economic transformation,” or
“social transformation” when they were telling us their biographical experiences.
To the contrary, the majority of them were referring to the general concepts,
such as “change” or “transformation” (or have not referred to them at all), being
less specific, yet much more described by their biographical experiences and
this also influenced our understanding of this phenomenon.
We would like to refer at this point to the distinction functioning in
social sciences, which refers to the division into emic and etic categories (Pike
1967).6 We treat the former as generated by the narrators themselves, derived
from their experience and based on their knowledge. The latter would have
external character and as such would be “imposed” on the individuals. In this
sense, an analysis of the transformation from etic positions would generate
a specific understanding of its course and an assessment of its effects. For the
introduction, we will try to reconstruct this “etic” history of the transformation
to a limited extent.
First, let us start from 1989 and the first partially free elections on June 4.
One could go back to the Martial Law or the founding of “Solidarity,” but it
was only at the end of the 1980s that the last breakthrough took place. While
the detailed direction of the changes was still unknown at that time, the 1990s
became a period in which a specific vision of political and economic order
prevailed. In this period, the main role was played by the mission to implement
5 See the chapters in the second part of the book, From PPR to systemic
6 We use Kenneth Pike’s terms, well-established in contemporary anthropological,
as well as sociological reflection: “etic viewpoint studies behavior as from outside of
a particular system,” while the “emic viewpoint results from studying behavior as from
inside the system” (Pike 1967: 37) also see Chapter II.
Part 1. Introduction: “Telling the Great Change…”
free-market economy, the main symbol of which was the so-called Balcerowicz
Plan. While the Plan itself was a package of privatization laws, it entered
the public debate as a symbol of choosing the path of social and economic
While at the macroeconomic level, the success of the reforms of the
1990s should be recognised (e.g., curbing inflation and stabilising the budget),
the enormous social cost of their introduction needs to be emphasized as well. The
first decade of functioning of the Third Republic of Poland was primarily a rapid
increase in unemployment (up to 20 at the end of the decade), but also
a collapse of other sectors of industry (e.g., textile industry in the case of Łódź).
The political closure of the 1990s was an attempt at the second wave of
reforms, the so-called four reforms of Jerzy Buzek’s government. They focused
on the following fields of social life: education (e.g., introduction of junior high
schools), pensions (e.g., introduction of open pension funds), administration
(reducing the number of voivodeships from 49 to 16) and health (new
organization of the system, i.e., implementation of health insurance funds).
Leaving aside a detailed description of all the changes, it should be stressed
that they were not only introduced partially, but often suspended or abandoned
and those concerning health care, education, and the pension system did not
bring the expected results. In the following years, they were modified many
times in the course of legislative work and changes in the government, that they
stopped providing a sense of stability or personal security. The dissatisfaction
with the process of the implemented reforms and the still unstable economic
situation of the majority of society had become the reason for re-assuming
the power by SLD, the post-PPR party. The paradox was that, in contrast to
the previous period when SLD ruled (1993–1997), this leftist party was
implementing the most free market program in the history of the Polish
transformation. It should also be emphasized that the nostalgia for the PPR
era felt by part of the Polish society and expressed through their electoral
preferences was not an isolated reaction. In fact, in all the post-communist
countries of Europe which entered the path of economic reforms the post-
communist parties came to power in a relatively short time, that is, not so much
(not only) of a leftist character, but built on the basis of human resources and
assets rooted in the old system.
Definitely, the most important political event affecting all aspects of social
life of the Polish society was the accession to the European Union in 2004,
which was connected, among others, with the opening of labor markets (at the
beginning of only a part of the Community countries) for Polish citizens, which
in turn resulted in massive economic emigration, often visible in biographical
materials. Again, due to the lack of space, we will not analyze here the different
achievements and failures of the sixteen years in the EU structures. It should be
Part 1. Introduction: “Telling the Great Change…”
stressed, however, that a significant part of this period coincided with two other
issues. Firstly, in the years 2008–2013, Poland, like the rest of the world, faced
an economic crisis and like a few countries in the EU went through it relatively
well (referring, of course, first of all, to macroeconomic indicators, including
the GDP growth). What is interesting, this period was also a period of political
stabilization of the country governed by the coalition of the Civic Platform and
the Polish People’s Party. The political and symbolic end of this phase would be
the parliamentary and presidential elections of 2015, which were won by the
majority of the Law and Justice party. The results of the election were a big
surprise for the Polish establishment, and their evaluation often entailed a return
to the debate on the end and the costs of the transformation. Some analysts
pointed out that the success of Jarosław Kaczyński’s party was possible thanks
to the use of the voice of those who never felt they were the winners of the
Thus, we decided to study the process of the transformation within the
frame of the emic categories derived from our collected material. However,
we do not intend to remain only on the level of meanings and interpretations
of the narrators themselves. To put it differently – following Alfred Schütz
(1976b) – one may say that the analytical layer of our considerations does not
stop on the level of first-order constructs, but goes further “towards empirical
relationships expressed in qualitative categories and towards theoretical
models and assumptions” (Piotrowski 1998: 125). As a result, we are focused
on following the social processes and opportunity structures8 that are
organizing the biographical experience of our narrators. Moreover, in relation
to macro-structural, collective mechanisms of impact and public discourse
rhetorical figures we concentrate on the reconstruction of the process of the
transformation in a way people are talking about it in their biographies.
As we can see in the above-quoted passage from Marcel’s interview when
one tells the whole of her/his life history from the biographical narrative can
stimulate the self-reflection of the narrators. However, this is not the case of
each autobiographical narrative. It is evident in a few of the cases analyzed in
our study that people telling their biographical experience sometimes are not
able to take up certain self-reflections. Therefore, in this book, we also look
at such biographies, showing the reasons behind the difficulties understood
in this way.
What’s important in our analyses attempt is to show the essence of the
biographical experience of the process of the transformation in Poland by
7 For more about winners and losers see Chapter II by Kaja Kaźmierska.
8 Transforming opportunity structures: biographical chances, hopes, illusions, and
dead-ends in Part 3.
Part 1. Introduction: “Telling the Great Change…”
reconstructing the experiences of the ordinary people Schütz (1946).9 The
ways they are dealing with talking about this systemic transition symbolically
located in the year 1989 are rooted in both the transformational and post-
transformational realities. The studied biographical experiences are thus,
in the wider perspective, intertwined with the processes of the intensive
modernization, Europeanization and those characteristic for the late modernity.
Research, understood in such a way, inscribes the following book’s deliberations
into the analyses of the orientation schemes and cognitive schemes of talking
about the great change in the Polish context. The conducted study is thus held
in relation to the individual biographical experiences of our narrators and
macrostructural perspective of the social reality/realities they are interpreting
and acting towards them in their biographies.
The overview of the approaches of studying the Polish
transformation in recent years
Before we present our approach and structure of this book in a much deeper
way, it is important to locate our analysis on the wide map of sociological studies
on the topic of the transformation in Poland. In this part of the text, we would
like to present a review of sociological literature on this subject. It is not our
attempt to reconstruct the public debate on the course of the transformation
or its evaluation. Rather, we are trying to refer to those works which are part of
the academic debate on the transformation in both quantitative and qualitative
approaches which touch upon collective and individual social perceptions at
Therefore, we are aware that the overview of various theoretical and
empirical positions listed here may not be complete. Our criterion was not to
present the most influential or ground-breaking works related to this subject.
We rather try to list here those texts and scientific positions which, in our
opinion, clearly accompanied the phenomena and processes characteristic
for the time of the transformation in Poland. We also refer here to the works
written from the post-transformational perspective, which are the attempts
of showing the costs of this process and its impact on contemporary Polish
reality. We treat the texts mentioned here as important ones for the formation
of a scientific discourse on the transformation phenomenon. In other words,
in this part of the text, we focus on presenting a certain analytical background
for our deliberations, which is necessary to understand how our approach
differs from the aforementioned, varied analyses on the subject of the great
change in Poland.
9 See Methodological note (Chapter I).
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