An Interview with Adam Przeworski

An interview with Adam Przeworski, one of the smarter scholars on democracy, authoritarianism, electoral socialism, and inequality:

Q: How did you first get interested in studying politics? What impact did growing up in Poland have on your view of politics?

A: Given that I was born in May of 1940, nine months after the Germans had invaded and occupied Poland, any political event, even a minor one, was immediately interpreted in terms of its consequences for one’s private life. All the news was about the war. I remember my familylistening to clandestine radio broadcasts from the BBC when I was three or four years old. After the war, there was a period of uncertainty, and then the Soviet Union basically took over. Again, any rumbling in the Soviet Union, any conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States, was immediately seen in terms of its consequences for our life. It was like this for me until I first left for the US in 1961, right after the Berlin Wall went up. One’s everyday life was permeated with international, macro-political events. Everything was political.

But I never thought of studying politics. For one thing, in Europe at that time there really was no political science. What we had was a German and Central European tradition that was called, translating from German, “theory of the state and law.” This included Carl Schmitt and Hans Kelsen, the kind of stuff that was taught normally at law schools. That was as much political science as there was. It was not a distinct academic discipline in Poland. So I never thought of studying politics per se.

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