Alexej Lochmatow, "Public Knowledge in Cold War Poland: Scholarly Battles and the Clash of Virtues, 1945–1956" (Routledge, 2023)

Summary

In the years after World War II, Polish scholars and scientists faced a complex and deeply personal political reality, the result of a long and violent history of war and occupation combined with pressure from Stalinist Soviet Union. 

In Public Knowledge in Cold War Poland: Scholarly Battles and the Clash of Virtues, 1945–1956 (Routledge, 2024), Alexej Lochmatow explores the public debates among scholars that took place  during this time and challenges the traditional narrative on the ‘Sovietisation’ of Central and Eastern Europe. Rather than seeing these intellectual debates as the spread of Marxist ideology or a Soviet institutional model, the author sees these debates as a failed attempt to force Polish scholars to adopt new academic and civic virtues. Lochmatow shows how Marxist and non-Marxist scholars united to oppose the imposition of these new virtues, and suggests that this example illustrates how ‘virtues’ can be used as a framework for evaluation of the foundations of scholarly practice and the way that authoritarian regimes attempt to teach scholars how to be ‘virtuous.’

The book covers why and how this attempt failed in Poland and also shows the difficulty of intellectual engagement within the context of a violent political reality. 

Going beyond a simple narrative of heroic resistance, Lochmatow tells the stories of people navigating rapidly shifting complexities in scholarly, political and public life in early Cold War Poland and points out the importance of maintaining a critical evaluation of the moral economy that forms as part of that resistance. 

Recommended reading: Communism’s Public Sphere: Culture as Politics in Cold War Poland and East Germany by Kyrill Kunakhovich. See also Kunakhovich's blog post on Communism's Public Sphere 

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Meghan Cochran

Meghan Cochran studies belief and action as a technologist working in customer experience and as a student of religion, business, and literature.
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