I am currently working on the rise of populism in Central and Eastern Europe. While partially based in the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at the University College London, I co-supervise two large international projects financed by the European Commission. The first one is designed to train 15 doctoral students, while the other's goal is to develop a new intepretation and explanation of the rise of populism, particularly its right-wing variety. The first fruits of this work are a blog entry and an article on the cultural side of the right-wing populist mobilization in Poland. The website devoted to these two projects is here.
I am currently surving as the elected 2020 President of ASEES (The Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies).
After studying sociology and philosophy at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, and several years of teaching in the Department of Sociology there, I earned a doctoral degree in anthropology from Columbia University. What am I doing in political science? The answer can be found in my main intellectual passion. As long as I can remember I have been fascinated by the relationship between power and culture, an area that is located at an intersection of several academic disciplines. Later, I developed the lasting interest in social movements and protest politics, again a rather interdisciplinary area of study. My interest in the complex interplay between power (politics) and culture was solidified and became a bit of an obsession in 1980-1, while I was living through the exhilarating experience of the first Solidarity period in Poland. My first and one of the most recent books, The Power of Symbols against the Symbols of Power and Anthropology and Political Science (with Myron Aronoff) are the best exemplifications of my approach. I study politics and culture comparatively, but the principal “source” of my observations and data is Poland and East Central Europe. I draw on my own empirical work in this region and regular collaborations with social scientists who work in and on Eastern Europe.
I have been associated with Rutgers since the early 1990s, but spent recently almost three years in London, directing the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) at University College London.
During the last few years I have also returned to my earlier interest in the philosophy and methodology of social sciences (particularly interpretive and ethnographic approaches) and contributed to this area through teaching, writing, and participation in conferences and workshops.
My research is concentrated in three fields: (1) civil society, social movements, and protest politics, (2) the relationship between politics and culture (including the politics of historical memory), and (3) democratization, particularly in the context of post-communist transformations. I draw on these three areas in my recent work on populism.
For a description of my research agenda, past and present, please click on the "Research" tab.
- Michael Bernhard and Jan Kubik, eds. 2014. Twenty Years After Communism: The Politics of Memory and Commemoration. Oxford University Press.
- Jan Kubik and Amy Linch, eds. 2013. Postcommunism from Within Social Justice, Mobilization, and Hegemony. New York: SSRC/NYU Press.
- Myron J. Aronoff and Jan Kubik. 2013. Anthropology and Political Science. A Convergent Approach. New York. Berghahn Books.
- Grzegorz Ekiert and Jan Kubik. 1999. Rebellious Civil Society: Popular Protest and Democratic Consolidation in Poland, 1989-1993. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press. Paperback edition 2001.
- Jan Kubik. 1994. The Power of Symbols against the Symbols of Power. The Rise of Solidarity and the Fall of State Socialism in Poland. University Park: Penn State University Press (book available at: http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/0-271-01083-5.html).
Selected articles and chapters:
- 2019. "Symbolic Thickening of Public Culture and the Rise of Right-Wing Populism in Poland" (with Marta Kotwas), East European Politics and Societies, 33, 2, 435-71.
- 2017. “Civil Society and Three Inequalities in Poland" (with Grzegorz Ekiert and Michał Wenzel), Comparative Politics, 49, 3, 331-350.
- 2017. "Civil Society in Postcommunist Europe: Poland in a Comparative Perspective" (with G. Ekiert), in K. Jacobsson and E. Korolczuk, eds. Civil Society Revisited. Lessons from Poland. New York: Berghahn, 39-62.
- 2017. “The Study of Protest Politics in Eastern Europe in the Search of Theory" (with G. Ekiert), in Fagan, A. and P. Kopecky, eds. The Rutledge Handbook of East European Politics. Rutledge.
- 2014. "Myths and Realities of Civil Society" (with G. Ekiert), Journal of Democracy, 25, 1, 46-58.
- 2012. “Illiberal Challenge to Liberal Democracy: The Case of Poland.” Taiwan Journal of Democracy 8, 2, 79-89
- 2009. "Introducing Rigor to the Teaching of Interpretive Methods," Symposium: Teaching Interpretive Methods, Qualitative and Multi-method Research, Spring, 11-17.
- 2009. "Ethnography of Politics: Foundations, Applications, Prospects," in Political Ethnography: What Immersion Contributes to the Study of Power, Edward Schatz, ed., University of Chicago Press.
- 2009. “Solidarity,” International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest 1500-Present. Immanuel Ness, ed. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 3072-80.
- 2008. “Contentious politics, protest, social movements: the logic of theory development,” Societas/Communitas, 4-5(1), 39-80 (in Polish).
- 2008. “The Logic of Civil Society: Poland, Hungary, South Korea and Taiwan. Project’s Outline and Preliminary Results” (with Michal Wenzel), Societas/Communitas, 4-5(1), 97-106 (in Polish).
- 2008. “Hybridization as a condition of civil society’s portability,” in Building Civil Society and Democracy in New Europe, Sven Eliaeson, ed. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 107-29.
- 2007. “The State and civil society. Traditions and new forms of governing,” in Civil Society and the State, Emil Brix, Jürgen Nautz, Werner Wutscher, Rita Trattnigg, eds. Vienna: Passagen Verlag, 33-52.
- 2007. “Democracy in the Post Communist World: an Unending Quest?” (with Grzegorz Ekiert and Milada Anna Vachudova), East European Politics and Societies, 21 (1), 7-30. Earlier version: “Unfinished Business. Conference Report,” Club de Madrid.
- 2006. “Avant-garde theater contra state socialism: what was global before the era of globalization (in Tadeusz Kantor’s theater)?” in Stawanie sie Spoleczenstwa, Andrzej Flis, ed. Krakow: Universitas, 267-91 (in Polish).
- 2006. “The Original Sin of Poland’s Third Republic: Discounting ‘Solidarity’ and its Consequences for Political Reconciliation” (with Amy Linch), Polish Sociological Review, 1 (153), 13-34.
- 2005. “How to study civil society: the state of the art and what to do next,” East European Politics and Societies, 19 (1), 105-20.
- 2003. “Cultural Legacies of State Socialism: History-making and Cultural-political Entrepreneurship in Postcommunist Poland and Russia,“ in Capitalism and Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe: Assessing the Legacy of Communist Rule, edited by Grzegorz Ekiert and Stephen E. Hanson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 317-51.
I am currently working on two major projects. The first is The Logic of Civil Society: Poland, 1989-2017. It is massive. We have just finished constructing a large data base and writing a book. It builds on my earlier work with Grzegorz Ekiert (Harvard) that resulted in our Rebellious Civil Society: Popular Protest and Democratic Consolidation in Poland, 1989-1993. Another collabolatior is Michal Wenzel.
My second project has two components. Both are related to my position of profesor at University College London (UCL). I co-direct an international consortium of six universities, led by UCL SSEES. We have received 3.5 million Euros for an innovative training network that over four years will train fifteen Early Stage Researchers (Delayed Transformational Fatigue in Central and Eastern Europe: Responding to the Rise of Illiberalism/Populism (FATIGUE) and another 3 million Euros for Populist rebellion against modernity in 21st-century Eastern Europe: neo-traditionalism and neo-feudalism (POPREBEL). The projects are designed to study one of the most pressing issues of our time, the rise of right-wing populism in post-communist Europe (and Europe, more generally). You can find more information here.
In the last 8 years I have published three books. After several years of work with Mike Aronoff (Rutgers, retired) we published a book that summarizes many of our ideas on the relationship between political science and anthropology: Myron J. Aronoff and Jan Kubik. 2012. Anthropology and Political Science: A Convergent Approach. Berghahn Books. You can purchase it here from the publisher. In Google Books you can read some fragments and peruse the list of chapters.
"What a welcome book! Myron J. Aronoff and Jan Kubik, two erudite, widely read, and innovative scholars, have provided an insightful and much-needed map that charts the terrain linking politics and culture. This intervention into a long-standing conversation about the boundaries of the 'political' will stimulate students for years to come." Ed Schatz, University of Toronto.
The second book, on post-communism, was prepared together with my former student and collaborator, Amy Linch. We had a great team and are very happy with the result, a book that proposes a fresh approach to postcommunism: Jan Kubik and Amy Linch, eds. 2013. Post-Communism from Within: Social Justice, Mobilization, and Hegemony. New York: SSRC/NYU Press. Here is the publisher's website.
It is an edited volume, with a lot of our own writing. Amy wrote an Introduction and I provided an extensive review of the field of post-communist studies, suggesting that the best work in this area tends to coalesce around a research program I call contextual holism. The lead chapters are written by Tom Wolfe and John Pickles (a critique of many assumptions underpinning "standard" approaches to the region); Alena Ledeneva (a critique of what she calls the "corruption paradigm"); Joanna Regulska and Magda Grabowska (an extensive, critical review of the literature on gender in postcommunism); and Ivan Szelenyi and Katarzyna Wilk (a critical look at the work on post-communist poverty). The project was sponsored by the Social Science Research Council in New York.
The third book came out in July 2014: Twenty Years After Communism: The Politics of Memory and Commemoration. Oxford University Press. The book's early prospectus is here.
Michael Bernhard (University of Florida) and I developed an original analytical frame, proposed a theory of the politics of memory, and led a team of exceptional scholars to investigate the politics of commemorations in 17 post-communist countries. We are studying the way 1989 is collectively remembered, how this remembering is politicized, and how it influences the course of democratic consolidation. The team met for the first time at a conference on this topic at the University of Florida, February 4-6, 2011. A great group of scholars, each providing a chapter on a country from the region. A truly amazing conference that initiated the project that offers many new insights into the politics of memory in the post-communist Europe.
Chapters and/or fragments of these projects are available upon request.
I have been teaching broadly on the topics related to my research agenda at Rutgers (Department of Political Science), University College London (School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)), and the Graduate School for Social Research (GSSR) at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. I have been also a guest lecturer at several other universities in a few countries.
In the Spring 2020 I supervise five doctoral students at UCL SSEES and teach two undergraduate courses at Rutgers:
790:395:05 Populism: a crisis of democracy?
790:315 Politics and culture
Dr. Jan Kubik is currently Professor in the Department of Political Science at Rutgers University and Professor of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College London (UCL). He earned his Ph.D. in Anthropology from Columbia University. His interests include democratization and good governance, civil society, political culture, communism and post-communism in Poland as well as in Central and Eastern Europe, and qualitative research methodology. Among his many publications are: The Power of Symbols and the Symbols of Power. The Rise of Solidarity and the Fall of State Socialism in Poland (The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994) and Twenty Years After: The Commemorations of the End of Communism, edited with Michael Bernhard (Oxford University Press, 2014).