Jadwiga Staniszkis is one of the most original and influential Polish sociologists of our times.
She became widely known in the United States when her book Poland's Self-limiting Revolution was published in 1984. Jadwiga Staniszkis was one of the seven advisers of Solidarity during the strikes of August 1980 in the Gdansk Shipyard. In her first book she gave an empirically well-documented, theoretically complex, though politically detached and often quite critical account of the birth of the Solidarity movement.
The current book resembles in many ways the first one. Like Poland's Self-limiting Revolution, The Dynamics of the Breakthrough in Eastern Europe is an ongoing, theoretically informed commentary of revolutionary events by a "participant observer." This time the events are the breakdown of socialism in Eastern Europe with an emphasis on Poland between 1989-1990. Her style and methodology make the book particularly exciting allowing us not only to observe how history unfolds but also to follow the evolution of the thinking of the author. The Dynamics of the Breakthrough in Eastern Europe is a collection of essays written immediately after major events took place. These essays were not altered significantly, thus allowing the reader to check how accurate Staniszkis's assessments were, how well her predictions about alternative futures stood the test of time. One could hardly think of a more risky task for a sociologist to undertake, for during the years 1989-1990 history seems to have progressed at an extraordinarily fast pace. Like the first book, the current one is also distinguished by the even-handedness, the thoughtful, detached character of the analysis. Though Jadwiga Staniszkis in these years was once again an adviser—this time she helped the presidential campaign of Lech Walesa during the late autumn of 1990—she is far from an advocate of the views of the pro-Walesa wing of Solidarity. She keeps as much analytical distance from Walesa's populism as the kept from the politics of the Solidarity movement in her first book. In both books she presents herself as a trustworthy commentator, a sociologist who practices her profession as a vocation in the best traditions of our trade.
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