Parallel Polis is a theoretical concept developed by Czech dissident Vaclav Benda (1942–1999) during the height of communist domination in Czechoslovakia in the 1970s. It was translated into English in 1978.
Benda argues that in a repressed state, it is impossible to overturn corrupt social, economic and political institutions. Such efforts are futile.
Instead, he suggests the creation of new "parallel institutions" that are more responsible to human needs. In time, he further argues, these more credible institutions may supplant the old corrupt ones.
The seminal idea received great attention in the dissident community in Czechoslovakia and in western political circles. It was, however, never put into practice. With the arrival of the Velvet Revolution in 1990, the idea seemed irrelevant.
It has since been revived by a group of scholars who originally met at the University of Washington but who now work at other academic institutions. Their thinking posits that Benda's idea is now being practiced on the Internet which more easily facilitates parallel institutions.
- Benda, Vaclav (1991). The Parallel Polis. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 35–41. ISBN 978-0312058036.
- Lagos, Taso; Ted M. Coopman; Jonathan Tomhave (May 22, 2013). "“Parallel poleis”: Towards a theoretical framework of the modern public sphere, civic engagement and the structural advantages of the internet to foster and maintain parallel socio-political institutions". New Media & Society. doi:10.1177/1461444813487953.