Class in post-socialism: contradictions in (non)-use
Michal Buchowski (Adam Mickiewicz University)
Paper short abstract:
Class as a notion has been practically abandoned in post-communist countries. Reasons for this intellectual trajectory are identified. Ethnographic examples from Poland show that the reigning interpretive culturalism is misleading and that the idea of class has actually been used in regulating social order.
Paper long abstract:
Class as a concept has practically disappeared from the works on post-socialist societies produced by native scholars. At least three major interrelated reasons for this state of affairs are discussed: 1) hostility towards the notion associated with (vulgar) Marxism; 2) post-1989 popularity of the post-modern interpretive culturalist paradigm; and 3) hegemony of neoliberal ideas about a classless consumer society. However, simultaneously and paradoxically, the notion of class has been used openly in attempts to create a 'middle class' - on the one hand, supposedly indispensable for building a democratic and market-oriented society; on the other hand, it has been used lately in both popular and scholarly neoliberal discourses, in which underprivileged groups 'lost in transition from communism to capitalism' were invented as social outcasts and remnants of the past order. Anthropological case studies will illustrate two important theses related to the 'status of class' in post-socialist neoliberal capitalism: that the notion of class retains its scientific explanatory power as it is embedded in actual social relations, and that although seemingly refuted, it indeed functions as a hidden ideological tool in the hands of dominant groups spontaneously creating social hierarchy.
The future of class