Reforming Poland’s Social Market Economy in the Age of Populism

The presentation will give an overview of my work – and ideas for future research – on recent economic and social policy developments in Poland and more broadly in Central and Eastern Europe. After the collapse of communism, most CEE countries implemented economic and social policy reforms that were inspired by the prevailing neoliberal paradigm. After avoiding a recession in the wake of the global financial crisis, Poland was considered as the region’s greatest success story in terms of economic reform. Yet, since late 2015, a new Christian-nationalist government has not only challenged the country’s constitutional order based on the rule of law and liberal democracy, but it has also pushed for much greater intervention of the state in the economy. While some social policy reforms (e.g. introduction of a relatively generous “Family 500+” child benefit programme) can be largely explained by partisan considerations, many economic reforms (especially emphasis on the promotion of domestically controlled – rather than foreign-owned – “national champions” in order to reduce dependency on foreign capital) are the result of a mobilization of a domestic managerial elites, rather than of purely “populist” politics.