Leszek Koczanowicz

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2015/2016
discipline Philosophy
Professor of Philosophy and Political Science, Department of Social Psychology, Faculty in Wroclaw, University of Social Sciences and Humanities

Research project

Politics of Everyday Life


The aim of my research project is to explore the relationships between everyday life and politics. In pursuing my project I am going to address such questions as: how can we describe the relationship between the sphere of politics and what has come to be called everyday life? Are they radically opposed, as public is to private, or more intimately connected? Is their relationship constant or does it vary historically, especially between totalitarian and democratic polities? Is it a relationship of harmony between micro and macrocosm or one of tacit contradiction, of reinforcement or of resistance, or possibly both? How can we get access to and make sense of the experience of the everyday?  

Politics of Everyday Life, a monograph study which the project is supposed to yield, will crown the trilogy initiated by Politics of Time. Dynamics of Identity in Post-Communist Poland (Berghahn Books 2008) and developed in Politics of Dialogue: Non-Consensual Democracy and Critical Community (Edinburgh University Press 2014).  In the former, I analyzed changes which took place in the public and private spheres in the period of socio-political transformation in Poland. In the latter, I proposed a concept of democracy as social dialogue that pursues understanding rather than agreement. My ideas of non-consensual democracy and critical community draw on American pragmatism and the Russian thinker Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of dialogue. At the same time, my concepts are largely inspired by my own experience of living under a totalitarian system as well as transition to democracy. In those periods, I actively engaged in public debates and spoke in the media on current political and social issues. This involvement made me realize the urgency of translating theoretical frameworks into practical interventions into the organization of democratic society.

The experience of living under a totalitarian system has made me highly skeptical about theories of totalitarianism which posit the system as a space in which the state exercises absolute control over individuals. The stance is most fully exemplified, of course, in Hannah Arendt’s concept of totalitarianism (Arendt 1966). Such theories, however, fail to capture the fact that any totalitarian power needs an opposite pole, i.e. a hidden society of bonds, dialogue, everyday communication, spontaneous solidarity, and support. The hidden society evades gaze precisely because it is so evident that it becomes transparent and eludes all attempts at conceptualization and control. It visibly reveals itself in occasional moments of anger and rebellion only to recede into the penumbra of abstract ideologies again. This hidden society is first and foremost a society of dialogue. 

A perennial challenge is to make a transition from everyday dialogue, which pervades all human bonds and relationships, to political dialogue, which could establish rules of political struggle. As my observations and analyses of the transformation period evince, democracy is not simply a system of institutions and rules, but primarily a certain form of life, an ensemble of habits, which must necessarily ensue from everyday life if it is to be effective in the first place. My research project will show that everyday life habits and the political sphere are interrelated, and reveal which forms of this relationship foster dialogical democratic society.



Leszek Koczanowicz is Professor of Philosophy at the Warsaw School for Social Sciences and Humanities. He holds a Ph.D in Contemporary Philosophy from the University of Wroclaw. His previous affiliations include University of Lower Silesia (DSW) in Wroclaw, Wroclaw University, Opole University, SUNY/Buffalo, and Columbia University, where he was Distinguished Professor at the School of International and Public Affairs.

Leszek Koczanowicz’s research interests are political philosophy, social theory and cultural aspects of politics. He is also interested in methodology of social sciences.

He is the author and editor of six books and numerous articles in Polish and English.

Selected publications


Discussing Modernity. A Dialogue with Martin Jay, with D. Koczanowicz & D. Schauffler, Rodopi, Amsterdam/New York, 2013.


‘The Politics of Catastrophe: Poland's Presidential Crash and the Ideology of Post

-postcommunism’, East European Politics and Societies, vol. 26, no. 4, 2012, pp. 811-828.  


Modern Anxiety. Essays on Democracy and its Adversaries, Universitas Press Krakow, Krakow, 2011.


‘Beyond dialogue and antagonism: a Bakhtinian perspective on the controversy in political theory’, Theory and Society, vol. 40, no. 5, 2011, pp. 553-566.


Contemporary Social Philosophy. Essays and Conversations on Ethics of Democracy and Civil Society, with R. Wlodarczyk, Gdansk Psychological Publisher, Gdansk, 2011. [in Polish]


‘Cosmopolitanism and its Predicaments’, Studies in Philosophy and Education, vol. 29, 2010, pp. 141-149.


Politics of Time. Dynamics of Identity in Post-Communist Poland, Berghahn Books,  Oxford/New York, 2008.


‘Politicizing Weather: Two Polish Cases of the Intersection between Politics and Weather’, The South Atlantic Quaterly, vol. 106, no. 4, 2007, pp. 753-768.



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