The Reconfiguration of Power as a Legitimization of Informal Political Actions in Local-Level Politics in Contemporary Poland

Introduction: Objectives and analytical assumptions

This paper considers local politics viewed from the angle of self-governance in contemporary Poland, based on the concept of the reconfiguration of state power against the backdrop of Polish historical and social conditions. Within this perspective, it presents separate social institutions operating on the bottom level of self-governance and considers their political potential in the local environment.

The assumed key hypothesis is that in the conditions of power reconfiguration and self-governance, the range of local politics broadens to include the previously non-politicized, new areas of the public sphere. At the same time, broadening the range of politics within the system of reconfigured power leads to mechanisms arising that work to merge the informal and formal political influences, as well as to formalize informal influences. As a consequence of this, informal political actors and initiatives are pulled into the area of local politics through legal instruments. The broad perspective on local politics in developed countries in this text is analyzed using theoretical models that come from literature on classic political anthropology. Such an approach is rendered possible by the fact that a broad range of politics in the local environment, according to concepts of reconfiguration, matches its scope in the primitive communities. Thus, the paper attempts to compare the applicability of two separate theoretical frameworks in contemporary anthropological research: the classic political anthropology models, and contemporary models of power reconfiguration.

The core analysis conducted in this text covers selected informal mechanisms of local politics within the conditions of the reconfiguration of power in contemporary Poland. However, as this analysis is not a monograph on a specific, defined local community, it also includes historical and cultural determinants of the wider national (Polish) arena. Within this perspective, specific institutions that are common throughout Poland (villages and FWAs) are analyzed as potentially useful tools in local politics. Both of these types of solutions have a bottom-top nature, balancing on the borderline between formality and informality.

Auxiliary research questions emerge from both the assumed hypothesis and from the reasons behind the employment of the classic analytical model. Does the division between formal and informal political influences become blurred as a result of the reconfiguration of power at the local level? Can informality be locally empowered as an important factor of bottom-top political influence? Is the politicization of the private domain, connected with public participation, a phenomenon working to open the local communities to activity and self-governance, or is it working to close it?

The final objective of the analysis is to attempt an evaluation of realistic possibilities for the attainment and use of informal influence on local power through local communities in contemporary Poland, and to evaluate informality in local politics under conditions of the reconfiguration of power.

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