The paper tries to conceptualize the social and structural change that self-governments underwent during systemic transformation in Poland. First, the situation of professional self-governments before the systemic transformation is discussed, including their liquidation at the onset of communist rule in Poland as well as the beginnings of their revival at the end of it, which was described as the first wave of development of professional self-governments. Both the reasons for liquidation, as well as revival of professional-self-governments are described. After this we discuss the second wave of this development, covering the first years after the fall of communism up to the adoption of the Polish Constitution of 1997, which regulated the status of professional self-government in the “social constitution”. Next we analyse the third wave of development of professional self-governments, which lasted until 2001 and was a portent of the conflict discussed at the end of the article between two ways of understanding what professional self-governments are and what role they should play (one focused on social constitution and other on efficiency). It is argued that from 2001 onwards professional self-governments have been treated more like a tool of effective governance (and very often – as something that hinders this governance) rather than an expression of civic society.