The Leszek Kołakowski Lecture: Is Poland still a liberal democracy? Constitutional breakdown and potential revival

The Leszek Kołakowski Lecture: Is Poland still a liberal democracy? Constitutional breakdown and potential revival

Friday, 22 November 2019 - 5:00pm to 6:45pm
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Venue: 
Seminar Room, European Studies Centre, 70 Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6HR
Speaker(s): 
Wojciech Sadurski (University of Sydney and University of Warsaw)
Chair: 
Timothy Garton Ash (St Antony’s College, Oxford)
Discussant: 
Jan Zielonka (St Antony’s College, Oxford)

The 2019 Leszek Kołakowski Lecture: Is Poland still a liberal democracy? Constitutional breakdown and potential revival

The speed and depth of anti-democratic and illiberal transformations in Poland post-2015 took many observers by surprise; until then, Poland was regarded as an example of a successful transitional democracy. In his Lecture, based partly on his recently published book Poland’s Constitutional Breakdown (OUP 2019), Professor Sadurski will address the nature and causes of these changes, focusing on their anti-constitutional character. He will show how the ruling party has dismantled the major checks and balances of the Polish state, and subordinated the courts, the civil service and even the electoral system to the will of the party leader. The lecture will be organised around three main questions: What, exactly, has happened in Poland since 2015, and how it aligns with the worldwide democratic decay? Why did it happen, and what are Polish distinctive causes of the illiberal turn? And what are the prospects for restoration of rights-respecting constitutional democracy?

The Chair of this event will be: Professor Timothy Garton Ash.

The Discussant will be: Professor Jan Zielonka.


Wojciech Sadurski is Challis Professor of Jurisprudence at Sydney Law School, University of Sydney. He also holds a position of Professor in the Centre for Europe in the University of Warsaw, and has been visiting professor at various US law schools, including at Yale, NYU and Fordham universities, as well as the University of Trento, Italy and in Toronto Law School. In Spring Term 2019/20 he will be again visiting professor at Yale Law School. He was Professor of Legal Theory and Philosophy of Law in the Department of Law, European University Institute in Florence (1999-2009), and served as Head of Department of Law at the EUI in 2003-2006. 

Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, Wojciech Sadurski is member of a number of supervisory or program boards, including the Institute of Public Affairs (Poland), Freedom of Press Observatory (Poland) and the Centre for International Affairs (Poland), as well as ICON-S and International Association of Constitutional Law, and also of several editorial boards. Since 2011, Chairman of the Academic Advisory Board of the Community of Democracies. In 2013, he initiated and has been leading the Myanmar Constitutional Reform Project. 

He has written extensively on political theory, especially theory of democracy and human rights, and also on philosophy of law and comparative constitutional law. His most recent books include Poland’s Constitutional Breakdown (OUP 2019), Constitutionalism and the Enlargement of Europe (OUP 2012), Equality and Legitimacy (OUP), and Rights before Courts: A Study of Constitutional Courts in Postcommunist States of Central and Eastern Europe (Springer 2014, 2nd ed.). Active blogger, @WojSadurski.


Please email: european.studies@sant.ox.ac.uk in order to register in advance to attend this event.

Further information about Professor Sadurski's book, Poland's Constitutional Breakdown, published by Oxford University Press, can be found HERE.