The Politics of Catastrophe: The Crash of the Polish Presidential Plane and Post-Postcommunism

The catastrophe of the presidential plane clash in April 2010 was of course a far-reaching event in Polish politics, with consequences still very present. The paper describes and interprets various ways of speaking about the catastrophe. I consider this rhetoric in the context of a clash of ideologies: that of modernization and of national-religious values. The conservative camp insists on inscribing the crash into Polish history, and claims that it reveals a division into two Polands: one of true patriots, and another of collaborators. I analyze this narrative through post-Marxist political theory, particularly Laclau and Mouffe and the concept of ideology developed by Bakhtin/Voloshinov. Ideology is understood as a complicated language phenomenon which permeates all spheres of everyday life as well as generates political programs. I then analyze the political consequences of the catastrophe through the concept of “post- postcommunism,” and show how the catastrophe’s complicated symbolic representation has shaped Polish political discourse. (Koczanowicz)

Leszek Koczanowicz is Professor of Philosophy at Wroclaw Faculty of Warsaw School of the Social Sciences and Humanities. He specializes in political philosophy, social theory and cultural aspects of politics. His previous appointments include Wroclaw University (1977-1997), Opole University (1997-2002), SUNY/Buffalo (1998-1999 and 2000-2001), and Columbia University (2004-2005) where he was Distinguished Professor at the School of International and Public Affairs. He is an author and editor of eight books and numerous articles in Polish and English. His recent publications in English include: Politics of Time: Dynamics of Identity in Post-Communist Poland, Berghahn Books 2008, (Polish translation 2010), “Beyond dialogue and antagonism: a Bakhtinian perspective on the controversy in political theory,” Theory and Society (2011) 40 ss. 553-566, “Cosmopolitanism and its Predicaments” Studies in Philosophy and Education (2010) 29 pp. 141-149, “Politicizing Weather: Two Polish Cases of the Intersection between Politics and Weather” The South Atlantic Quaterly, Fall 2007, Volume 106 Number 4 pp. 753-768.