Local Governments and the Challenge to Autocratic Nationalism in Poland

Lecture | February 13 | 12-2 p.m. | 270 Stephens Hall

 Anthony Levitas, Visiting Senior Fellow in International and Public Affairs, Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University

 Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ISEEES)

Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and while the whole world held its breath to see if “shock therapy” in Poland would collapse under its own weight, Polish state-builders embarked on an almost equally radical, but largely overlooked, program of local government reform. These reforms gave subnational governments, and particularly large cities, control over more than a third of all public expenditures, making Poland one of Europe’s most decentralized polities. They were also wildly successful, and Polish local governments have not only transformed the country’s physical infrastructure, but have played a key role in dramatically improving the nation’s education system. With the 2015 election of the illiberal Law and Justice Party (PIS), however, Polish local governments find themselves on the frontlines of the struggle against autocratic nationalism. In this talk, Tony Levitas will discuss the uniqueness of Poland’s system of local governance in relationship to both Poland’s transition to democratic capitalism, and the current assault on it.

 Anthony Levitas