Accepted Paper:

Neoliberalism as we know it: the crisis, the elites and the sports mega-event in Poznan, Poland  


Malgorzata Zofia Kowalska (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan)

Paper short abstract:

This paper offers a critique of the assumption shared by many Western scholars that the whole world has gone left after the crisis of 2008. It contextualises the perspective of Polish authorities 25 years after the transition while based on research on the legitimacy of a sports mega-event in Poznan.

Paper long abstract:

When conducting research among the city authorities on the 2012 UEFA (European) Championship in Poznan, Poland, I was struck by the image of Poland which they all seemed to share: that is, of a 'green island' which not only survived, but indeed took advantage of the global economic crisis. Neoliberalism retains its hegemonic position in the Polish public discourse. Despite the growing discontent with governmental politics both at the local and national level, the authorities still believe that 'a rising tide lifts all boats', and that the potential of the country's strength lies in GDP growth and its supposed attractiveness for foreign investors.

Surprisingly, whereas on the one hand the country's position is seen as improving in the global competition and the process of 'scaling' (Brenner, Çağlar and Glick Schiller), on the other hand, one can get an impression that its officials act as if it was a secluded island unaware of the new challenges and changes happening elsewhere in the world.

This paper examines the background of these convictions while using the perspective of 'historical realism' (Gavin Smith) and drawing from Michel Foucault's discussion on power and truth, as well as from Michel Callon's concept of the 'performativity of economics'. It is based on longitudinal fieldwork among Poznan's city authorities ('studying up') and is part of a project on the significance of sports mega-events for neoliberal hegemony.

Panel P012
Crisis as ongoing reality: perspectives from different anthropological locations (European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) and the Committee for World Anthropologies (CWA) panel)