Książka jest propozycją przepisania historii Polski oraz opisania jej społeczno-kulturowej tożsamości przy pomocy narzędzi teoretycznych, które albo w ogóle albo w niewielkim tylko stopniu wykorzystano kiedykolwiek w tym celu – teologii politycznej, Lacanowskiej psychoanalizy, teorii systemów-światów, studiów postkolonialnych, ontologii wydarzenia Alaina Badiou czy teorii hegemonii. Tytułowa figura „fantomowego ciała króla" nawiązuje do koncepcji „dwóch ciał króla" przedstawionej niegdyś błyskotliwie przez Ernsta Kantorowicza w książce pod takim samym tytułem. Poprzez metaforę fantomowego ciała Sowa opisuje I Rzeczpospolitą, której kondycję determinował przede wszystkim szereg braków. Pokazuje, że począwszy od śmierci Zygmunta II Augusta, ostatniego dziedzicznego króla Polski i Litwy, Rzeczpospolita nie istniała jako państwo w ścisłym tego słowa znaczeniu, ale była raczej fantomem, urojeniem, wyobrażeniem, uroszczeniem. Owo nieistnienie położyło się cieniem na losach Polski od wczesnej nowoczesności wieków XVI i XVII, przez rozbiory aż po czasy współczesne. Fantomowe ciało króla nie jest jednak typową pracą historyczną. Jej przedmiot to przede wszystkim współczesna Polska i jej problemy z nowoczesnością. Na kartach książki w zaskakujący i – jak się okazuje – inspirujący sposób Wallerstein spotyka się z Gombrowiczem, Brzozowski z Lacanem, Lefort z Andersonem a Gramsci i Laclau ze staropolskimi sarmatami, aby wyjaśnić zagadkę, jaką była i jest Polska.
Jan Sowa (2011)
Fantomowe ciało króla. Peryferyjne zmagania z nowoczesną formą
Within the last decade, the application of postcolonial studies for the study of Central and Eastern European societies has received much attention. Research following the postcolonial paradigm focused mainly on the formation of national identities in the current context of the region's transformation to democracy and market economy as well as the European Union's expansion after the fall of the iron curtain.The Cracow sociologist and cultural theorist Jan Sowa starts from these debates in order to lance a new interpretation of Polish history in the early modern age. The aim of his much-sold book is to contribute to an understanding of the present state of the Polish society, economy and state, but in particular of Poland's national identity and nationalism. In difference to recent postcolonial analysis of Poland's modern history that paid much attention to the patterns of cultural perception and political relations, Sowa is interested in analysing the interplay between cultural identity and self-perception, economic inequality and political subordination by a multifaceted approach, which he calls “a cultural-historical sociology of backwardness" (“kulturowo-historyczna socjologia zacofania", p. 29).
Following this guideline, the introduction lays down the main arguments as well as the theoretical and methodological concepts that range from sociological theories of Habermas and Latour, Lacan's psychoanalysis and the combination of postcolonial studies with Braudel and Wallerstein's world system-analysis. In addition, he makes also use of approaches by other developmental economic historians such as Giovanni Arrighi or the young Andre Gunder Frank. A further important current is Polish economic historiography represented by important figures such as Witold Kula, Jerzy Topolski, Antoni Mączak or Marian Małowist.
Sowa's main point is the perception of East Central Europe's inferiority in comparison with Western Europe. This subaltern feeling led to the constant orientation on Western political, social and cultural models implying a self-colonization of the region. This perceived need for constant adaption to external cultural and social patterns marks for the author also the difference to modernization strategies by the means of cultural transfers applied by states such as Japan or China. The second aspect of this relationship of regions' subordination in the face of the Western part of the continent is the evolution of the capitalist economy in the early modern age and its inherent spatial inequalities that affected East Central Europe directly and whose consequences have been shaping the characteristics of the region. Speaking more precisely of Poland-Lithuania as interesting case to study these relationships more in depth, Sowa adds another detail that is the lack of an integrated modern statehood which he describes by recurring to Ernst Kantorowicz's political theology as “a phantom body" serving as paradigm for his narrative up to his book's title. The partitions of the Nobles' Republic among Russia, Prussia and Austria are presented as a logical consequence of this process that made visible the de facto lack of the state at the end of the 18th century.
Sowa develops this argument following a chronological pattern: Chapter two (pp. 47–108) explains Poland's economic boom during the nascent capitalist world-economy during the 16th century price revolution and the evolution of “second serfdom" as organizational pattern paving the way to the dominance of the folwark. Chapter three (pp. 109–206) explains the main elements of Poland-Lithuania's economic dependency, such as the focus on agricultural exports to Western Europe, the unfavourable terms of trade or the long-term negative effects of the folwark economy. Chapter four (pp. 207–284) explores the effects of the 17th century crisis as the turning point for economic expansion, making the structural deficits of the peripheral development model all too manifest. Also, Sarmatism is explained as ideology in a psychoanalytical sense and identified as the main cause for the political disintegration of the Nobles' Republic. Chapter five (pp. 285–350) turns the focus to the magnate elites and identifies not only their specific social and economic model, but in particular their political decentralized stance as main causes for the peripherilisation of the Polish-Lithuanian economy. At the same time, he claims that the state's expansion to the so called Eastern Borderlands (Kresy) presented rather a private enterprise of the Magnates than an imperial expansion of state power. Chapter Six (pp. 351–430) offers a new reading of the Nobles' Republic history, following Lacan, labelling it as a phantom state or invented artificial social organism. The Sarmatian ideology covered the peripheral status until the partitions made confrontation with reality inevitable. Here, Sowa claims a combination of social and political reality with its perception and interpretation by the historical subjects in order to avoid a one-sided historical constructivism. Chapter Seven (pp. 431–494) reflects on postcolonial theory and its difficulties when applying to Eastern Europe and Poland-Lithuania. Here, a double form of subordination is noted: First, the subordination of Polish elites in the face of the west, and second the dominance they themselves exerted over the ethnically mixed population of the Eastern Borderlands converting them into subaltern subjects. The conclusion (pp. 495–536) insists on the complex, polycentric and multi-layered web of dependencies, patterns of power and subordination, and points to the risks an oversimplified and distorted application of postcolonial methods bears for historical narratives by reinforcing nationalist perspectives. In this sense, both classical modernization theory and multiple modernities may be insufficient in order to conceive the complex dependencies and multi-layered power relations.
In sum, Jan Sowa offers an impressive re-reading of Poland-Lithuania's early modern history that offers potential for being applied to other parts and countries of East Central Europe. Making use of a range of studies and approaches that have been developed during the last years and decades – such as Sarmatism as defensive ideology of the Aristocratic elite or the Polish Nobles as colonisers in the Eastern Borderlands– the combination of discourse analysis, psycho-analysis with postcolonial studies and world-system analysis make up for an explanation of the interplay of the various factors that explain the trauma that the partitions and economic deficits supposed for Polish history and identity until today. The interesting point of Sowa's book is his transcendence of modernist theories both of nationalism (such as those of Hroch, Kohn and Anderson) and of economic development. Instead he offers an explanation that conceived the complex multi-layered and multi-faceted process. It is remarkable that he openly reclaims the tradition of Marxist theorems in the current of uneven development, as supported by other scholars in the fieldthus questioning the all too often automatically accepted link between Marx' philosophical tradition and communist dictatorship in Eastern Europe (p. 444–448). In spite of the impressive literature the author invokes, reflecting his profound knowledge and demonstrating the refinement of his argument, the lack of the internal periphery approach, as developed by Hans-Heinrich Nolte or Andrea Komlosy, is surprising as it offers an analytical concept able to encompass the double-role Poland-Lithuania had as a semi-peripheral empires, as Dariusz Adamczyk claimed.These interpretations may serve to classify Poland's position within the capitalist economy better than associating its status with extra-European colonies (p. 443). Nonetheless, these objections don't change the fact that Sowa's work makes an utterly important contribution, both for Poland, where it opened a heathen debate, as well as for further reaching methodological and theoretical debates.
Johannes Feichtinger / Ursula Prutsch / Moritz Csáky (Hrsg.), Habsburg postcolonial. Machtstrukturen und kollektives Gedächtnis, Innsbruck 2003; Janusz Korek, (Hrsg.), From Sovietology to Postcoloniality. Poland and Ukraine from postcolonial perspective, Huddinge 2007; Jan Surman / Klemens Kaps (Hrsg.), Galicia postcolonial, Historyka. Studia metodologiczne, XLII (2012), Beiheft. <historyka.edu.pl/en/article/art/historica-2012-29/> (18.06.2014).
Danuta Sosnowska, Inna [Different Galicia], Warszawa 2008; Daniel Beauvois, Trójkąt ukraiński. Szlachta, carat i lud na Wołyniu, Podolu i Kijowszczyźnie [Ukrainian Triangle. Magnates, tsarism and villagers in Volhynia, Podolia and Kiev Voivodeship] 1793–1914, translated from French into Polish by K. Rutkowski, Lublin 2005.
Vasant Kaiwar, Postcolonialism, Eurocentrism, and the Question of Universalism. Subaltern-Studies and Postcolonialism in India and USA, in: Matthias Middell / Ulf Engel (Hrsg.), World Orders revisited, Leipzig 2010, S.17–49.
See e.g. Hans-Heinrich Nolte (Hrsg.), Internal Peripheries in European History (= Zur Kritik der Geschichtsschreibung 6), Göttingen 1991; Andrea Komlosy, Globalgeschichte. Methoden und Theorien, Wien 2011.
Dariusz Adamczyk, Zur Stellung Polens im modernen Weltsystem der frühen Neuzeit (= Schriftenreihe Studien zur Geschichtsforschung der Neuzeit 21), Hamburg 2001.
Klemens Kaps: Rezension zu:Sowa, Jan: Fantomowe ciało króla. Peryferyjne zmagania z nowoczesną formą [The Phantom Body of the King. Peripheral Struggles with a Modern Form]. Krakau 2011, in: H-Soz-u-Kult, 08.07.2014, <http://hsozkult.geschichte.hu-berlin.de/rezensione...
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