Fellows of CEU's Institute for Advanced Studies teaching at the Department of History
Oana Adelina Stefan - University of Pittsburgh; Consumption and Consumer Culture under Capitalism and Socialism
Agata Zysiak (Jan-March 2017)
Discipline: Historical Sociology
Institution: University of Warsaw/ University of Lodz, Poland
Project Title: Trajectories of Postindustrial Cities from a Biographical Perspective: Detroit (USA) and Lodz (Poland)
The global dynamics of capitalism, national regulations, city policies and finally, workers reacting to and comprehending change are important scales of industrial collapse. I am primarily interested in the biographical level of changes. The work-centered life course of thousands of citizens had to be reshaped inside a decade and the temporal scale of adaptation varied strongly between individuals and social groups. How did people deal with the collapsing industrial hubs on which they were totally dependent (economics, social relations, individual sense of self)? How did they manage with the spectacular experiment of late capitalism implemented on both sides of the former Iron Curtain and which brought an ominous, yet somehow surprising, convergence? I combine biographical methods and historical sociology to examine the trajectories of the rise and fall of two important industrial centers in different political and economical contexts.
The proposed comparison contributes to the field of historical sociology and labor history. Firstly, an important aim of the research is to contrast two separate models of working class based modernization: corporate and socialistic welfare state, which was not done before. A serious lack exists in comparative studies between European and American context with only a few projects dealing with this issue and none comparing Eastern Europe to American contexts. Overcoming Cold War dichotomy for communists and capitalists, project's assumption are revisionist and wish to overcome this binary oppositions in a search for transnational trends in their local articulations. A critique of waged-labor paradigm usually operates between old dichotomous notion of the so-called Global North and South, in which the latest serves as a tool to undermine euro-centric notions and to wider a narrow focus on the 'core workforces'. While Detroit's case serves as an example of American model for working-class based modernization, providing mainly White, male and skilled workers with upward mobility to American dream and middle-class lifestyle; the case of Lodz introduces an often neglected or ignored context of the soviet modernization and so-called “Second World” perspective. Looking closer to the state socialism, its limited and „modest' modernization for the masses, reveals oversimplification of the core-periphery dichotomous logic and tributes to better understanding a heterogeneity of the world’s labor regimes.
My project seeks to explore the global scale of socioeconomic processes and its relation with the human scale – i.e. the experiences of particular human beings, their interpretative strategies and their struggles with changes to their everyday lives. I wish to focus on local communities and individual phenomenological experiences located in larger societal and international contexts.