This article revisits the category of self-criticism, which, as a speech act, plays a special role in the discourse of the intelligentsia, emerging from the peripheral status of Poland and from the imperative to catch up with the West. In contemporary Poland, self-criticism has revived as a discursive strategy in the context of coming to terms with the democratic transformation. For the right-wing intelligentsia, self-criticism is mainly a postulate that is addressed to political adversaries. For the left-liberal intelligentsia, self-criticism is not only a political weapon but also a strategy of introspective enunciation directed at the post-transformation society. A qualitative discourse analysis of selected acts of self-criticism performed by Polish left-liberal elites between 2013 and 2019 highlights two interconnected conflict-generating fields of debate: (1) reckoning with the neoliberal and pro-Western model of the 1989 democratic transition and (2) retribution on the post-transition intellectual elites that patronized the people and the attribution of responsibility for the Elite-People Division. The distinguished functions of self-criticism point to the political and class conflict as well as to the growing delegitimacy of the dominance of the neoliberal narrative about the Polish model of modernization.

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