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The Project


This international project is funded by the National Science Centre Harmonia 10 grant on the allocation decision UMO-2018/30/M/HS5/00437.

Project leader: Professor Dorota Pietrzyk-Reeves, Jagiellonian University

Leading Foreign Partner: Professor Patrice McMahon, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

The key goal of our research project is to use new theoretical conceptions and novel, cross-national evidence to try to reconceptualise the relationship between civil society, democracy, and democratization. The project examines the new stage of civil society development in Central and Eastern Europe, looking at CEE countries with different relationships to the European Union and on different stages of democratization and democratic consolidation; its case studies are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Serbia, Ukraine, and Russia.

Thirty years after CEE abandoned communist rule, our project brings into focus the role that civil society has played and will play in shaping different political and social pathways in the region. It tests some of the prevailing assumptions about ‘post-communist’ civil societies, taking into consideration the political, social, and economic developments in the region and contemporary trends. By doing so, it aims at opening a new stage of research on civil society in CEE; one going beyond the ‘post-communist’ condition as the major point of reference and looking at the current developments as shaped by a variety of factors that have greater explanatory potential than the ‘post-communist legacy’. Our empirical cross-national research as well as qualitative methodology allow us to focus comparatively on the evolution of civic activism in these countries and the new challenges that civic actors have been facing such as democratic backsliding, the shrinking of public space, political polarization, crisis and war.

The project has four chief objectives:

  1. Theoretically, it will provide a new conceptualization of civil society development.
  2. Empirically, it will propose a fresh approach to assessing:
    1. Specific sectors of civic activism
    2. Social and political support for civil society
    3. The impact of informal groups and social movements on policies and legislation function in different countries in the region
  3. Methodologically, it will use diverse sources of data and will generate new data to better conceptualize civil society development and for cross-national and thematic analyses.
  4. Practically, it will provide policymakers and civil society actors with empirically grounded and nuanced strategies to enhance the potential for civic engagement in the region.  

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