Gone with the smoke: workers' everyday neoliberalism in a cigarette factory in central Poland
(University of Warsaw)
Paper short abstract:
The paper presents how the privatization of state monopoly and introduction of market logic in industrial management influenced social relations in a workplace as well as meanings ascribed by workers to production and consumption of cigarettes.
Paper long abstract:
In my paper I would like to present how the privatization of state monopoly influenced everyday sociality among workers from lower and middle rank in a certain tobacco factory in central Poland and changed meanings ascribed to the production and consumption of cigarettes. Basing on the in-depth interviews with employees who had been working in the factory from the 70's, I will argue that the impact of neoliberalism is visible on two different levels: social relations amongst workers and their approach to the product they manufacture. The job scarcity in the region which is mainly caused by the demise of state-owned industry in the 90's, imposes rising feeling of insecurity and competition in the workplace. Workers' responses to the lack of former solidarity, embeddedness, and intimacy vary depending on their personality, habitus and resources. However, most of the employees' struggles to maintain self-respect and challenge the market oriented logic of factory are intertwined with their remembered experiences from the period of state-owned factory. The socialist past is being used by workers as a reservoir of meanings and values in order to reconfigure their position in changing workplace. Cigarettes which in socialism served as strong currency in informal economy (cigarettes were hard to buy and sometimes rationed), nowadays are perceived differently. Due to neoliberal conception of the responsible, goal-oriented self and the medicalization of smoking, tobacco is no longer described as a socialization tool, but as a product, which has to be advertised and sold to different strata of consumers.
Re-embedding the market economy: innovation, legacy, and techniques of intimate sociality after socialism