Session 10

From Workers’ States to the humble state of the workers: ‘Learning Democracy’ through Sub-alternization in Eastern Europe
Don Kalb (professor, Central European University – Budapest)
Alina Cucu and Florin Faje (doctoral students, CEU – Budapest)

Tribute to Mark Pittaway

We deeply regret that Dr. Mark Pittaway (The Open University, Milton Keynes) suddenly and unexpectedly passed away at the age of 39. His outstanding scholarship will remain exemplary for generations to come.  ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–


Adam Mrozowicki (Institute of Sociology, University of Wroclaw), Reka Geambasu (Babes-Bolyai University, Department  of Sociology), Triin Roosalu (Tallinn University, Department of Social Stratification):
Civilising capitalism in Eastern Europe? Labour activism and trade union strategies in the automotive sector in Poland, Estonia and Romania


Murg Ana-Maria: Agency and Identity: Redefining the collective of women workers from Argos, Cluj-Napoca in post-socialism
Central European University, Budapest

Eszter Bartha (“Eötvös Loránd” University, Budapest) and Mark Pittaway (The Open University, Milton Keynes):
Lonely fighters?: The “working class” and the change of regimes in Eastern Germany and Hungary

Eszter Zsófia Tóth: “My Work, My Family, My Car”: Women’s Memories of Work, Consumerism, and Leisure before and after 1989
“Eötvös Loránd” University, Budapest



The studies of socioeconomic transformations in Eastern and Central Europe could not fail to note the massive displacement of the working classes from socialism to post-socialism. That these accounts were geared primarily in political, economic or cultural terms makes little difference, the outcome is usually described in terms of “marginalization”, “impoverishment” or “destitution”. The relatively decent and secure position that workers had under state-socialism crumbled soon after the regime’s demise. The space of the factory, the icon for the strength of the socialist working classes, was as quickly losing its material and symbolic significance as it was getting rusty, only to be replaced by a fearful political discourse unable to locate the newly uneducated and unemployed in the emerging capitalist order. The surprising political irrelevance of labor and the workers’ inability to ‘learn democracy’ is taken here as a process of sub-alternization of the working-class which failed to be properly explored over the last years.

The present session invites for a critical debate among historically minded sociologists and anthropologists on the trajectory of these economic, political and cultural processes. The complex processes of working-class formation and disintegration raise key questions on the historically changing relations between class and the state, thus providing ideal starting points for any critical inquiry in the establishment and emergence of political and economic regimes. We welcome papers on any topic dealing with the relationship between the state and the working-class and its transformations in socialism and post-socialism. Our suggestions are: factory communities, power relations at the shop floor level; mass culture, ideology, and nationalism; class, ethnicity, migration and the right to the city; processes of subjectivation and identity formation. The sheer variation of these relations in postwar East-Central Europe makes the regional focus all the more welcome, however without sidelining the impact of global forces or that of local events.

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