In the midst of a pandemic, the Jagiellonian University’s Institute of Sociology (in collaboration with its Interdisciplinary Center for Socio-Legal Analyses as well as the Polish Sociological Association) organized a series of Master Lectures. Presented virtually and open to the general public, these meetings with eminent Polish scholars addressed the most crucial and tenacious issues of our times. Active in their homeland as well as globally, the speakers are recognized specialists in sociology, jurisprudence, history, social work, theology, and political science. The format encompassed a lecture followed by an online discussion with all interested attendees; the texts found herein comprise the fruits of those encounters. Disregarding geographic, temporal, and physical divides, this cyberagora created a space in which masters could find themselves amidst colleagues and students, sharing ideas, views, and experiences drawn from various academic disciplines and social milieux.
We are witnesses today of the progressive fragmentation of the sciences, from the natural to the social. This pertains not only to sociology—all our fields are splintering into ever more contracted sub-disciplines and specializations. The trend in mind is leading to an acute deficit, a sweeping deficit of holistic and dauntless scrutiny into our problems in all their grandiosity. This is about more than just the issues vital to the 21st century, but also those crucial to our comprehension of challenges in our shared, social life. Intensely missed is bold synthesis, a gaze anchored in deep wisdom and far-reaching knowledge, and an approach that is both friendly and open—all geared towards the sharing of our perceptions of quiddity.
This is why this Master Lectures series—to which notable personages of contemporary social and humanistic thought have been invited to speak—is so important. Avoidance of the adjective “sociological” is conscious here because all the texts in the volume at hand refer to a much broader intellectual field. Striking, too, is the fact that all are strongly marked by an axiological dimension: discussed herein are responsibility, freedom, solidarity, trust, and reciprocity. The topics undertaken concern key quandaries of our contemporary times: a sense of community, populism, interpretations of the law and legal nihilism, new social movements, dilemmas and tensions inherent in the welfare state, and the social position of an ecclesiastical system. Among the masters we find an entire galaxy of renowned figures of great intellectual achievement and social authority.
Anna Giza, Warsaw University
The volume at hand comprises a collection of nine lectures presented by eminent representatives of the social sciences: professors of sociology, legal studies, and theology. These scholars are of high standing in Poland, several are known in the world. The lectures—although varied in form, style, level of generalization, and the nature of their commentary on current affairs in Poland—constitute a coherent whole. Composed in appropriately clear language, the texts are unencumbered by excessive references to specialized literature.
The present-day situation in Poland is treated very competently, though sometimes charged strongly with criticism. Certain of the theses, underlying messages, comparisons or juxtapositions found in this very interesting book could be considered (especially by a more conservative reader) highly debatable. Nonetheless, this material is all the more significant as an intellectual portrait of the mainstream, scholarly elite in Poland Anno Domini 2021. It can be well expected that this volume will give rise to serious intellectual discussion.
Krzysztof Motyka, Catholic University of Lublin