Competing Responsibilities: The Ethics and Politics of Contemporary Life
Jessica Robbins-Ruszkowski, 2017. "Responsibilities of the Third Age and the Intimate Politics of Sociality in Poland", Competing Responsibilities: The Ethics and Politics of Contemporary Life, Susanna Trnka, Catherine Trundle
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In the context of population aging, anxieties about old age are underpinned by contested moral ideologies about claiming and enacting responsibility for the oldest generations. In Poland, such contestations involve complex historical reckonings in which the socialist past’s legacy looms large. Against the specter of a collectivist rationale, the logic of individual responsibility exists within an East-West moral imaginary. This chapter explores a historically particular phase of late life, the third age, by analyzing one of its hallmark institutions, the University of the Third Age, in the context of attempts to build civil society in eastern Europe. This case elucidates the intimate politics of sociality that constitute contemporary forms of responsibility. Specifically, this chapter argues that the Polish term aktywność (activity, activeness) constitutes a local idiom of care, morality, and sociality, and that understanding its complexities can advance theorization of contemporary forms of responsibility by working across scales.