RECON Report No 16



Extending the Boundaries of Civic Membership

Polish NGOs as Change Agents

Beata Czajkowska (ed.)

RECON Report No 16

ARENA Report 9/11, Oslo, December 2011


The European Union faces multiple potential paths of democratic development. The RECON project suggests three viable democratic configurations: a confederation of nation states; a multi-national federation; and a post-national, cosmopolitan democracy. A polity requires a demos or collective identity to sustain its legitimacy. One question pursued in theory is what kind of collective identity or narrative is required for a federal European Union or a post-national polity? Does each kratos have a unique demos? Or can multiple demoi or collective identities coexist?

This report investigates empirically the contending narratives of collective identity in contemporary Poland, both a national state and a (relatively) new EU member state. It focuses on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) role in advancing the rights and civic membership of women and sexual minorities. Employing strategic action field theory, the report finds multiple contending narratives: a waning incumbent exclusive-nationalist conception of Poland; an inclusive-nationalist narrative; and, common among NGO activists, a Kantian rights-based conception of civic membership. Contrary to theories suggesting a static one-to-one mapping between kratos and demos, the evidence in this report suggests that continuous contestation among identity narratives is more characteristic of living democracies.

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