Working Paper

The Myth of "Weak Ties" and the Ghost of the Polish Peasant: Informal Networks of Polish Post-Transition Migrants in the UK and Germany

Published 1 January 2011 / By Malgorzata Irek

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The vast majority of Polish migrants in the UK and Germany have a very low opinion about their own group solidarity in these countries. They claim that the ties between Poles abroad are almost non-existent, as opposed to strong ties established by such ‘others’ like Jews and Italians. This opinion is reflected in the interviews and surveys done by the sociologists, who see these ‘weak ties’ as an explanation of the rapid integration of Poles into receiving societies as well as their upward mobility. This paper challenges these conclusions. It is based on longitudinal anthropological fieldwork in both Germany and the UK since 1987, as well as on Polish history. The paper challenges the notion of the weak ties amongst Poles by establishing the plurality, omnipresence and instrumental effectiveness of their informal networks. It also questions the utility of sociological methods and concepts for the analysis of raw human agency, such as informal networks.


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