Constitutional Strategy for a Polarized Society: The Case of Poland and the Social Contract Incubator
This panel will discuss the work of the Social Contract Incubator (Polish: Inkubator Umowy Społecznej or IUS; https://zdecentralizowanarp.pl/about ), as a case-study in addressing, in constitutional terms, the pervasive challenge of social, political, cultural and economic polarization that is increasingly prevalent on both sides of the Atlantic, indeed globally. The proposed forum will explore IUS’s proposals as a micro-case in constitutional imagination to provoke participants to tackle broader problems of constitutionalism after the “end of the end of history.”
By way of background, IUS is a multidisciplinary group of scholars across the Polish political spectrum that has introduced an ambitious vision for constitutional reform, aiming at breaking the intractable legal and political deadlock that the country is facing. Recognizing the geographic dimension of Poland’s political cleavages (with the country’s South-East being much more conservative than the North-West), IUS proposed—in more than 70 press commentaries, conferences and other events organized throughout 2019—a new constitutional settlement around the idea of “strategic decentralization”: a deep devolution of policy areas of acute partisan conflict combined with continued centralization of economic redistribution. Unlike in the model of traditional federalism, IUS also wants to entwine regional authorities in central governance, especially in re-creating and protecting the country’s independent institutions.
IUS’s work may be understood as part of a broader international trend in which actors have experimented with constitutional design as a means of addressing increased polarization and political fracturing. The forum will discuss the aspects of IUS’s proposals most relevant to that broader trend: mutually accepted institutions (the “fair deal”), national cohesion, human rights and the fiscal constitution. A pair of IUS members from different parts of the political spectrum will address each topic, followed by a comparative perspective offered by international commentators.