Barrington Moore Jr. Revisited: Landlord, Peasant and the Collapse of Liberal Democracy in Central-Eastern Europe

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Jaroslaw KILIAS, Institute of Sociology, Warsaw University, Poland
In my paper I attempt to look at Barrington Moore’s Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy as a source of hypotheses that help to explain the recent illiberal turn in Central-Eastern Europe. Moore suggested that political development paths of democratic and non-democratic countries were the outcome of the unresolved problems related to the capitalist transition of the agriculture and the dominance of the landed aristocracy. What makes his argument surprisingly up-to-date is the fact that the two Central-Eastern European societies marked by are Poland and Hungary, in which landed nobility remained a dominant class for a long time, and the two which did not solve the peasant question in the interwar period. The paper is an attempt to answer the question whether the collapse of liberal-democratic institutions could be related to the long-term heritage of the agrarian relations.

Apparently, the influence of the Socialism and another, post-socialist capitalist transition, which changed the agrarian relations in a significant way, is more important than the heritage of the nineteenth century. Consequently, any answer to the question about the relevance of Moore’s hypotheses as a possible explanation of the recent collapse of liberal democracy requires two-step analysis. In the first step I will compare the agrarian development in selected European Communist and post-Communist countries, showing that there is a factual correlation between the two phenomena. In the second step I will try to analyze the configuration of the changing relations between the peasant, state apparatus and other institutions (especially and the catholic church), showing how they were transformed. This will enable to show the possible ways in which the post-feudal heritage of the nineteenth century influences the contemporary constellation of urban and rural interests, and the contemporary political development in Poland.