EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010

(W023)

The self as 'mini-corporation'? The fate of neo-liberal models of personhood in the boom (and bust) economies of Central and Eastern Europe

Location JHT2
Date and Start Time 27 Aug, 2010 at 11:30

Convenors

Nicolette Makovicky (University of Oxford ) email
Dimitris Dalakoglou (Vrije University Amsterdam) email
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Long Abstract

The economic and political transition to a market capitalist system in Central and Eastern Europe has been described as the greatest neo-liberal experiment in recent history. Liberalisation has not only created profound changes in the areas of social welfare, entrepreneurship, labour, and consumption, but also new ideals of social ethics, citizenship and self-government. In an environment shaped by global capital and labour flows, flexible specialization, low job security and diminishing welfare provisions, individuals are encouraged to become self-reliant and 'flexible' in both in their lifestyle choices and their working lives. People are being asked to re-think themselves, their rights and duties along the lines of a neo-liberal socio-economic philosophy. Anthropologist Emily Martin (2007) has described this neo-liberal subject as a 'mini-corporation'. According to this model, persons are encouraged to see themselves as property-owners and owners of their own labour power (as in the classical liberal tradition), but as "a collection of assets that must be continually invested in, nurtured, managed, and developed" (Martin 2000: 582).

This workshop invites scholars to reflect upon the ascent of neo-liberal models of personhood amongst policy makers, corporate individuals, politicians and ordinary citizens in Central and Eastern Europe; and to debate the consequences of the global recession for the viability of such models. How has the economic boom of the last 10 years and the current crises changed people's aspirations? Their perception of the private and public sectors? Their narratives of transition 'success' and 'failure' ?

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Work-discipline and corporate culture: temporal regimes in a multinational bank in Romania

Author: Liviu Chelcea (University of Bucharest)  email
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Long Abstract

Various ethnographic studies have documented a sense of intensification of time among large strata of post-socialist societies. This paper will describe the transformations of work-discipline in a large Romanian state bank purchased by a Western bank during the early 2000s. Building on the work of E.P. Thompson, ethnographies of post-socialism and ethnographies of work in the flexible accumulation regime, I will describe the sudden process of disciplining the post-socialist work force, and the instilling a new sense of routine, daily schedule and work related relationships. Based on interviews with middle managers and human resources managers carried out in 2006, I describe the transformations induced by the new corporate management. These include a sharper separation of "work" and "life", higher standardization of time keeping, the de-socialization and individualization of work space, the emergence of "virtual" time and the colonization of personal time by organizational time mainly through training and team-building activities.

Selling, yet still social: the continued importance of consociational personhood among eastern German entrepreneurs

Author: Gareth Hamilton (University of Latvia)  email
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Long Abstract

In this paper I explore how entrepreneurs in postsocialist eastern Germany are rhetorically encouraged to adopt neoliberal practices, in an era still overshadowed by the negative memory of 'Ich AG' individual 'corporations' as solutions to personal longterm unemployment crises. Using Warner's conception of publics, the paper explores the messages promoting risk-taking, expansion, industriousness and self-promotion (western) German entrepreneurship advice manuals promote. I show the remarkable similarity in stance on entrepreneurship taken by a high-circulation weekly periodical, whose readership has otherwise been cast as eastern counterpublic with views conforming to a conception of personhood expressed in the non-neoliberal 'east German idiom' (Engler) of modesty, trust and greater consociational thinking. Based on observations in entrepreneurship courses and interviews with participants, I suggest that despite this neoliberal message's replication and tacit acceptance by both easterners and westerners, consociational personhood still retains a high moral significance among eastern German entrepreneurs.

Building on trust: open-ended contracts and the creation of sociality in the time of neoliberalism

Author: Radu Gabriel Umbres (National School for Political and Administrative Sciences)  email
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Long Abstract

Based on research in a Romanian village, this paper challenges some of the fundaments of neo-liberal discourse by contrasting the deep free-market beliefs of the people that I worked with with the underdevelopment engendered by extreme individualism and lack of cooperation. While the "amoral familism" and money-centred ideology displayed in the social life of the village share much with "laissez-faire" economics, they also lead to an economy mired by mistrust and spiteful actions, where "might is right". In contrast, I analyse a particular building-trade practice of open-ended contracts where economic exchanges omit the negotiation of payment and rely on social relations for settling the debts. Following processes linking local representations of reciprocity in the historical moneyless peasant economy with the contemporary effects of migration, the paper reflects upon the solutions employed by villagers to bind themselves into a mutually beneficial sociality and escape the blind-alley of autarchy.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.