Pillarization of protest in Poland? Analysis of coalition protests in 2020 based on mentions in the daily press

Daniel Płatek –  doctor of sociology, graduate of IFiS PAN, employee of ISP PAN. He deals with the research of protests and collective mobilization, sociological theory, historical sociology and the use of social networks in research in which the source of data are press mentions. Among his interests is also the use of NLP tools for analyzing the processes that govern science  – the so-called science of science.


Grzegorz Ekiert (2020) argues that the contemporary organizational trajectory of civil society in Poland has the essential features of cultural and political polarization, which in turn facilitates the current turn of the country towards authoritarianism. According to the author, since the democratic breakthrough in 1989, Polish civil society has evolved towards an organizational form that can be described as a “pillar civil society”. This phenomenon concerns the vertical segmentation of civil society into sectors that have their own organizational resources, normative orientations, and consequently their own patterns of building protest coalitions in which political parties play a central role. As Ekiert shows, especially after 2015 electoral support for anti-liberal and anti-European parties defined political conflicts and protest policy, strengthening the pillarity of civil society.

Despite formulating a strong thesis about “pillarization “, it has never been verified empirically. I assume that the actors behind the organization of the protest events reflect the nature of collective identities in civil society, and I ask whether and to what extent the protest coalitions in Polish civil society formed in 2020 a pillarized structure of protest.

Using a collection of protest events taken from Polish newspapers, I use NLP (Natural Language Processing) tools to extract a number of variables describing the protests: their scale, range, types of actors, repertoires of activities. The collection of mentions prepared in this way is then transformed into a matrix of networks of coalition links of actors participating in the protest. I use centrality measures and community detection algorithms to map protesting actors and determine what it means that Polish protests can be seen as a vertical pillar structure, coordinated by political parties.