Accepted Paper:

Abjection, dependency and the struggle for personhood on the periphery of capital: the case of the "stechajci" in the Republic of Macedonia  


Aleksandar Dimitrovski (University of Sussex)

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks at the history of a particular category of aging, unemployed labourers in the Republic of Macedonia and their struggles to overcome social abjection in the aftermath of structural adjustment.

Paper long abstract:

The dominance of "austerity" as the new economic paradigm in Southern Europe, has revitalized anthropological interest in the social movements opposing it on the ground. Linking up with these debates, this paper examines the history of one particular social movement in the Republic of Macedonia, the so-called stechajci, and its relationship with the wider workers' struggles of the post-socialist era. After spending decades of employment in socialist enterprises, the stechajci found themselves occupying a uniquely peripheral position to capital as an unemployable "surplus", as a direct result of structural adjustment policies. My analysis revisits the concept of "moral economy" and "right to live", as developed by E. P. Thompson and Karl Polanyi respectively and relate these to recent debates on class, labour and personhood. I emphasize the absence of class based politics and the prevalence of moral struggles that rely on a specific understanding of personhood that significantly diverges from the market model of "possessive individualism". I suggest that the outcome of these struggles has not been to challenge social inequality in itself, but to challenge the specific kinds of inequality and subject categories introduced by the transition to a neoliberal market economy.

Panel P080
New trends in the anthropology of unemployment after the economic crisis of 2008-9 [Anthropology of Economy Network]