Accepted paper:

Local worlds, state subsidies and external resources: moral expectations and economic practices in a Transylvanian village


Árpád Töhötöm Szabó (Babes-Bolyai University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper presents the everyday economic practices of the different local groups in a multiethnic Transylvanian village in the light of the marketisation and investigates how they interpret their successes and failures and formulate moral expectations in relation to each other and the state.

Paper long abstract:

The paper presents on the background of the postsocialist change, marketisation and the recent crisis the case of the villagers from a multiethnic village (Romanians, Hungarians, and Roma) in Transylvania whose life and economic practices are characterized by a threefold tension. They experienced the economic disintegration of the local world (the village does not offer enough resources for making a living); the socialist, paternalistic state disappeared, but in recent years has become one of the major economic actors through its different subsidies (e.g. SAPS funds) and social aids; and those are the really successful ones, who are able to embed into external markets. The villagers are part of and see themselves as part of a global context, while they are able to influence only their close surroundings being unable to exert effects on the national or global levels. They try to surmount these tensions by evoking moral views about fair conditions and happier life, but these morally embedded discourses differ depending on ethnicity, social and economic position. The decreased demand for their work and products, the devaluation of land, the ambiguous presence of the state, the foreign investors have thus two effects: the villagers have to reinvent repeatedly their economic practices and while trying to do this they formulate moral sentences to interpret successes and failures. The paper analyzes how the hope for a better future, the religious and ethnic communities, the networks of mutual help, political conditions and economic circumstances interplay in the formation of a popular wisdom (metis).

panel P65
Linking the moral and the political economy in the European periphery