Beyond coping? Alternatives to consumption within Russian worker networks
Paper short abstract:
Social networks support alternatives to consumption outside the market economy for the working poor in Russia. Under neoliberalism, sociality emerges as meagre, practice-based; nonetheless it reveals enduring and shared ethical and cultural categories of meaning around production/consumption.
Paper long abstract:
Research on the post-socialist lived experience of the working poor often focuses on economic survival. It is equally important to examine how social networks facilitate self-provisioning and mutual-aid practices for non-subsistence consumption (decorative, non-utility items) in the face of material want. Ethnographic materials presented here of workers (both in the formal and informal economy) in a Russian province show how self-resourced homemaking and decoration constitute a social practice linked to membership of a class-based network. Socially recognized practices such as making furniture and aquariums are focused on. The resources of the network provide opportunities for alternatives to consumption outside the market economy. Worker identities at work cannot be detached from those at leisure and at home; for the working poor, both consumption and work become increasingly mobile, interstitial. Against a backdrop of Russia as a testing ground for the most extreme neoliberal reform, a post-socialist, post-working-class sociality emerges as meagre, practice-based; nonetheless it is based on enduring and shared ethical and cultural categories of meaning around production/consumption.
Work and consumption: insurmountable links in uncertain times (EN) (FR)