Aleksandra Jasińska-Kania

    is a Polish sociologist. She is Professor Emerita at the Institute of Sociology at Warsaw University, where she has served since 1990. She specialises in general sociology, comparative studies of values, democracy and citizenship, national identity, nationalism, and ethnic stereotypes. Professor Kania has been a visiting scholar at universities around the world, including St. John’s College, Oxford, the University of Hawaii, the University of Indiana at Bloomington, Stanford University, and the University of Stockholm. She has participated in numerous research projects, including the “European Values Study”, and is the author, co-author, or editor of 12 books and over 100 articles published in Polish and foreign journals. Her most important recent publications include Legami fragili (Co-author with Zygmunt Bauman), 2014; Wartości i zmiany. Przemiany postaw Polaków w jednoczącej się Europie (Values and Changes. Poles’ Changing Attitudes in a Uniting Europe) and, as co-author, Tolerance in Poland, 2011. “Populism assumes that society is divided into two groups that are homogeneous and monolithic internally but opposed and antagonistic to each other: the ‘pure people’ on the one hand and the ‘corrupt elite’ on the other. Such an understanding of democracy represents majority rule of a kind that may not be limited in any way, and politics is meant to express the general will of the people. ‘The people’ are the bearers of collective wisdom drawn from ancient local tradition, religion and national culture, a paragon of moral virtue based on an intuitive ability to tell right from wrong and justice from injustice. Related to this is a distrust of various institutions and a dislike of the strict observance of formal rights (accompanied by a strong condemnation of any violations of moral norms) and a suspicious view of provisions guaranteeing the rights of individuals and minorities, which are regarded as a source of privilege and abuse. The ‘elites’, which are deemed hostile to ‘the people’ and exploitative of them, are accused of taking advantage of their position, resources and public goods in their own interest, which is at odds with the good of the majority. Moreover, they are accused of consciously, though covertly, harming ordinary people by being involved in conspiracies and betraying national interests. Populism appeals to all those who feel victimized, excluded, wronged and deprived of the benefits of modernisation, economic progress and the transition to democracy by greedy and immoral elites. This moralizes the political discourse and politicizes the moral discourse, creating an atmosphere of ‘moral panic’, which augurs a moral decline in public life and justifies calls for a ‘moral revolution’ that will heal the state by removing from power the elites, whose government lacks moral legitimacy. This discourse arouses a strong emotional response, amplifying feelings of anger, resentment, anxiety and fear.”