Accepted paper:

The moral economy of subsistence: an ethnography of every-day life in the post-soviet Russian countryside


Glenn Mainguy (Université Bordeaux Segalen)

Paper short abstract:

From an ethnographic study of every-day life in post-soviet rural Russia, I argue that the moral sentiments structure the household production and explain, following the concept of moral economy of subsistence, how individuals experience and negotiate the economic changes that happened in Russia.

Paper long abstract:

Toward a study of the everyday practices of livelihood of people living in the rural Russia, we try to understand how individuals experience and negotiate the economic (Wegren, Nefedova, O'brien) changes happened in Russia. I started an ethnographic study of every-day life (Humphrey, Caldwell, Weber, Schwartz) in 2012 in the regions of Kolomna. During my fieldwork, I have analyzed the production, the consumption and the exchange of products from the household production. The aim of my purpose is to show that the household production is not only structure by economical (is the sense of political economy) logics (Kostov & Lingard, Davidova) but also by a set of moral sentiments. I argue that those moral sentiments are based in an ethic of good, of necessary and of fair and are based on an opposition between "us", people living in the countryside "the established" and "them" people living in the city "the outsiders" (Hoggart, Elias). Thus, from the study of moral sentiments I define a type of moral economy of subsistence (Thompson, Scott, Tchayanov). I analyze this concept with three modalities: the practices of livelihood; the embeddedness of economic structures and social structures: cultural values and moral concerns (Polanyi, Granovetter); the opposition and the resistance to domination toward the notion of svoy and nashemu. The definition of this type of moral economy of subsistence will help us understand a paradox of the rural Russia society: why whereas the overall living conditions increase, individuals have the feeling of living worse and worse.

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