Society of the Future: Recompositions 18th Polish Sociological Congress 14-17 of Sep, 2022

Panel: Elites and anti-elitism in contemporary Europe. Struggles over power and voice in the populist moment

Organizers: Elżbieta Korolczuk (Södertörn University, Sweden/University of Warsaw, Poland), Håkan Johansson (Lund University, Sweden)

In today’s politics the word “elite” circulates as a derogatory term, associated with arrogance, snobbishness and alienation from the “common people”. Many representatives of elite groups, including powerful politicians and billionaires, carefully avoid such self-description, trying to stress their democratic views and/or working-class background. “Elite” has became a useful shorthand for exclusion and the abuse of power, and the anti-elitist language has been promoted by both: the right-populist parties and movements, who claim that people can be empowered only by toppling the “liberal elites,” and by the left, who accuses economic and political elites of destroying the planet and democracy. The problem of unequal access to power, resources and voice is being increasingly addressed not only in politics and in economy, but also in civil society as some civil society organizations have become influential political actors in their own right, with considerable power and resources at their disposal. Analyses of the educational and class background of the leaders of civil society organizations show patterns similar to economic and political elites, such as a tendency to exclude women and people from ethnic minorities or economically disadvantaged groups.

This panel aims to discuss new research on elites and the rise of anti-elitist discourses, and modes of organization and mobilization in contemporary Poland and in Europe, from a sociological perspective. We invite analyses which are based on up-to-date empirical studies and/or offer new theoretical perspectives on elites, counter-elites and anti-elitism in contemporary Poland and beyond. The questions we aim to discuss include: a) what qualities, networks and values characterize elites in contemporary societies, and how are they (re)produced; b) to what extent do various elite groups interact or even overlap; c) by whom, on what grounds and with what effects are elites challenged and concentration of power and resources contested; and d) what mechanisms and processes lead to elite consolidation or elite contestations across countries and internationally, and e) what are the consequences of elite existence, reproduction, consolidation and contestation for contemporary societies?

Key words: anti-elitism, civil society, elites, populism, social change

Contact details:,

Panel link: Elites and anti-elitism in contemporary Europe. Struggles over power and voice in the populist moment – XVIII Ogólnopolski Zjazd Socjologiczny

Deadline for abstracts: 15th of March, see website for uploading abstracts.