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Accepted Paper:

Longing for the "ideal" khozyain (owner): Visions of good management and leadership in a steel and coal company in Kazakhstan  
Tommaso Trevisani (University of Naples L'Orientale) Eeva Kesküla (Tallinn University)

Paper short abstract:

Despite their Soviet background workers of a Kazakhstani steel and coal company differ in how they envision effective leadership and virtuous ownership for their company. Rooted in their different history and labour traditions, their diverging visions answer to a common condition of uncertainty and crisis.

Paper long abstract:

This paper compares the workplace moralities, politics and visions of the future of the Russian-speaking working class in two heavy industries in contemporary Kazakhstan. Situated in the Karaganda region, these are a steel plant and coal mines, both flagships of Soviet Central Asia, both acquired in the mid-1990s by the same Indian company from the government of Kazakhstan. Despite their common political-economic framework, physical proximity and similar restructuring processes that put pressure on their workplaces, steel and coal workers nevertheless differ in their attitudes toward past and future. This comparative project will answer the question: "why are the visions of the future of workers in steel and coal so different?" We are especially interested in comparing different underlying notions of what a "good" khozyain (company owner) should be. Rooted in common Soviet imaginaries of the paternalist provider (Ashwin 1999), after privatization steel and coal workers have come to envision their ideal of strong leader and good owner in different ways. In order to explain this, we look at differences in labour processes, historical class trajectories, global commodity chains, demographics, as well as the symbolic value of labour and past worker politics between the two groups. We argue that looking at visions of an ideal owner might be a way to understand different visions of the future in circumstances where great ideologies and political ideals no longer work.

Panel P012
Visions of futures from industrial workplaces: shop-floor reflexivities on work, political agency and social reproduction
  Session 1