Kulczycki Book Prize in Polish Studies

2009 Citation Recipient

Tomasz Inglot

The Kulczycki Book Prize in Polish Studies (formerly the Orbis Book Prize), established in 1996 and sponsored by the Kulczycki family, former owners of the Orbis Books Ltd. of London, England, is awarded annually for the best book in any discipline, on any aspect of Polish affairs, published in the previous calendar year.

Co-Winner: Tomasz Inglot
Title: Welfare States in East Central Europe, 1919-2004 (Cambridge University Press)

Tomasz Inglot’s book Welfare States in East Central Europe, 1919-2004 is a major contribution to our understanding of social policy in the region prior to the communist regimes, under communism, and in the post-communist transition period. A rigorous examination of any one of the eras and types of social policy he covers would have strengthened our understanding of the topic; covering all of them makes this book the major work in the field to date. With its historical and institutional analysis of Polish, Czech and Slovak, and Hungarian cases using the methods and standards of policy analysis in the West, the book also makes a strong contribution to the comparative study of European welfare states. From the vantage point of the Orbis prize, Inglot’s analysis of Polish social policies on its own, let alone in comparative relief, creates new knowledge about very important phenomena in Poland over the course of a century.

The combination of rigor, breadth, and deep research presented in this study is truly impressive. The book integrates analysis of institutions and policy processes in the arena of social policy and relates changes in this policy sphere to more general political and economic developments, including crisis moments that generate a different mode of policymaking. Leaving any of these aspects out would have weakened the author’s analysis – tackling them all was extremely ambitious and produced a compelling and revealing account of social policy and its formation in the region. The author also used his research on social welfare systems to break down the disjunctures implied by the categories of pre-communist, communist, post-communist and to restore historical complexity to blanket notions about the “Eastern bloc” under Soviet domination. He makes a convincing case that all communist regimes were not the same, even in the matter of social policy. While he criticizes some standard social science methods and interpretations, he chooses selectively from among them to develop an unusually nuanced theory. The complexity of this approach allows balanced and sensitive examination of each case while avoiding the trap of reducing explanation to “national characteristics.”

For both its rich content and its sophisticated interpretation, Welfare States in East Central Europe will remain the standard for the field for a long time to come.

Co-Winner: Roman Koropeckyj