"I have never been unemployed" : narratives of work, worth and worthlessness in an East German town / Katerina Ivanova
VerfasserIvanova, Katerina
ErschienenHalle/Saale : Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, 2019
Umfang1 Online-Ressource (20 Seiten, 0,25 MB)
SerieWorking papers ; No. 198
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"I have never been unemployed" [0.25 mb]
This paper discusses the narratives regarding (un)employment which emerged before during and after German reunification in the East German town of Zwickau. Previous research in the anthropology of postsocialism has argued that the experience of work in socialism provided a foundation for East Germans to contest the viability of modern capitalism. However I argue that such a “social” alternative has been to a large extent defeated by neoliberal hegemonic discourse. I do so by focusing on the narratives of worth and worthlessness in relation to employment as well as the processes that shaped these narratives. First I briefly present my field site and elaborate on the methods of my field research on the automotive industry in Zwickau. Second using the life story of one of my informants I show the disparity between personal experiences of dispossession and individual moral economic dispositions. Finally I discuss the heightened moral and social importance of work in postsocialist former East Germany the turbulence of its labour market since 1989 the process of welfare state retrenchment and the narrative of labour shortage as factors which paved the way for the establishment of neoliberal hegemony. These developments I argue also contributed to framing issues of employment in individual rather than structural terms.