Accepted Paper:

Changing work, sustaining leisure among Estonian miners  


Eeva Kesküla (Tallinn University)

Paper short abstract:

I explore why the practices of spending leisure time have remained similar to the Soviet period and changed little during the 2008 crisis despite large changes in the nature of work and changing class relationships. I claim this is because of a particular ideology and morality of miners' work.

Paper long abstract:

Despite the neoliberal and nationalist pro-Estonian ideology, the Russian-speaking miners of North-East Estonia still feel considerable pride about being miners, the former vanguard of the Soviet working class. The changes in the political economy of the state have diversified opportunities for spending free time. Despite the changes in political and economic regimes and the constant fear of losing the job in the crisis that coincided with my fieldwork, I claim that there are ways of spending free time that have remained particularly characteristic to miners of the region, and are shaped by the Soviet system and the nature and morality of miners' work. These activities involve both particular ways of relaxing as well as work outside the workplace. Increasing class differences between workers and engineers are not reflected in their leisure practices that are still linked to being a "miner" in the wider sense of the word. Differences in cultural consumption have instead widened along the ethnic lines emphasising the different moralities of collectivism and individualism among Russian and Estonian speakers. The single biggest change has been has been a shift from the work-collective-based leisure to the realm of the family. By this ethnographic example I aim to demonstrate that postmodernity or new opportunities of consumption in capitalism do not necessarily change or diversify the practices of spending leisure time. Rather, the ways of consuming one's free time are intimately linked to the nature and morality of work and the workplace. This link proves stronger than the changes in the political economy or new opportunities of leisure.

Panel W070
Work and consumption: insurmountable links in uncertain times (EN) (FR)