Accepted paper:

Interests all the way down: Class differences in a worker-owned company

Authors:

Ognjen Kojanic (University of Pittsburgh)

Paper short abstract:

I argue that a relational view of class is relevant on the enterprise scale by analyzing how differences in the experiences of labor and dispossession, attitudes to mobility and stasis, and structural positions in terms of ownership get mapped onto a generational divide in a worker-owned company.

Paper long abstract:

This paper analyzes ambiguous positions of, and divisions among, workers in the Croatian machine tool company ITAS Prvomajska. ITAS had gone through privatization during the 1990's, but ITAS workers, in 2006, used the bankruptcy process to convert the debt of the company into shares and acquire the controlling interest in the enterprise. Approximately half of the current employees had not worked there before the takeover. A generational divide has over time emerged as a shorthand that maps out other divisions in the company. The majority of old workers have spent their decades-long careers in ITAS and took part in the struggle for ownership; many of the new employees' experience of labor had been shaped in the wider context of Croatian post-socialism. Old workers tend to have shares and consider themselves company owners, whereas young workers do not. Old workers want to stay in the company until they can retire, whereas young workers tend to leave the company and town when opportunities arise. A view of class attuned to questions related to dispossession, labor, and space helps us grasp the differences among workers within the company that are based not solely on age, but, rather, tied to differences in the experiences of labor and struggle against dispossession, different attitudes to mobility and stasis, as well as different structural positions in terms of ownership. I argue for the relevance of a relational view of class not only on societal or global scale, but on the scale of individual enterprises as well.

panel P133
The new anthropology of class: relations of place, experience and (dis)possessions