Vehicles for Change or Preservation? the Role of Think Tanks in Poland

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 16:15
Location: Hörsaal 18 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Katarzyna JEZIERSKA, University of Gothenburg, Centre for European Research, Sweden
Literature on experts’ place in democracies and the epistemic dimension of democratic decisions is growing. For example recently, the unregulated role of policy professionals has been pointed out as an acute issue for democratic governance (cf. Garsten, Rothstein & Svallfors 2015). In order to secure the epistemic value of democratic decisions, expert knowledge seems indispensible. On the other hand, letting experts decide on political issues leads to de-politicization and weakened democratic control of decision-making. This article aims to study a certain type of policy professionals in a specific context - think tanks in Poland. Even though Polish civil society has gained much scholarly attention, this particular group of organizations has been rather overlooked.

The context of transformation designated a unique place for think tanks in Central and Eastern Europe (Kimball 2000), creating a demand for innovative solutions in the task of redesigning the social, political and economic landscapes. After initial flourishing in the early 1990s with an unquestioned aim of sustaining the pro-democratic reforms (Krastev 2000), think tanks now find themselves in an ‘identity crisis’.

In this paper, I contrast the external and internal image of Polish think tanks to assess the role these organizations play today. How do think tanks present themselves? How are they represented in the mainstream printed media? What role and position in the decision-making system are they ascribed/do they ascribe themselves? Do they present themselves/are they presented as part of civil or political society? The analysis is based on a series of semi-structured interviews with Polish think tank leaders and qualitative content analysis of two major Polish newspapers.