By Jerzy Jedlicki
As in all peripheral nations of Europe, Polish intellectuals - conservatives, liberal, and (later) socialists - quarrelled approximately even if the Western version of liberal growth and commercial civilisation may go well with and gain their country, or even if it will spell the spoil of its unique cultural good points. This booklet tells the tale of a century-long Polish dispute over the advantages and demerits of the Western version. the talk revolved round numerous pairs of opposing principles: local tradition vs cosmopolitan civilization; traditional vs synthetic methods of financial improvement; Christian morals vs capitalist laissez-faire; conventional customs vs cellular society; romanticism vs scientism, etc. it's those numerous features of the most factor which the writer analyzes and hyperlinks jointly during this paintings. He indicates how tricky and painful the method of modernization used to be in a state disadvantaged of its political independence and cultural autonomy.
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Extra info for A Suburb of Europe: Nineteenth-Century Polish Approaches to Western Civilization
The moreforeign the changes appear, the stronger the resistance. The guise in which the reform is presented also has apart to play, as do thetactics used by the reformers. From this point of view, the Enlightenment, although it developed over several decades, can be seen as a dramatic breakthrough in the history of modern Polish culture. It meant a return to Europe for Poland. The impulses for the re-education of this “gentry nation” were generated locally, although suchimpulses had to be backed from outside by people familiar with contemporaryEuropean ideas in the areas of science, technology, law, philosophy and art.
The older proponents of the Enlightenment, such as Stanislaw P ~ t o c k i ‘and ~ the brothers Sniadecki,Zs set out to brainwash the Sarmatian gentry and clergy, not hesitating to ridicule them nlercilessly in their attempt to purge them as quickly as possible of prejudice and parochial backwardness. The young idealists of the Philomaths’ Society7gwere beginning to discover Voltaire; in the following years they went through thewhole of European thought, philosophy, law and poetry from the previous century, studying them feverishly, driven by their faith in progress and universal reason.
The emphasis on these last words is his. And this is where the praise ends. The creation of “something completely new” was reprehensible, for it was the beginning of all evil-the loss of identity: “from foreign lands, from foreign climes, they took ideas and notions by the handful, which were like alien coins stamped with the mark of unknown minter, scattering them all over Poland. These coins circulated quickly. Together with alien ideas and an alien consciousness came alien feelings and customs.