Working Paper 58

Redefining Social Relations through Work in a Rural Community in Poland.

Michal Buchowski

Abteilung ‚Resilienz und Transformation in Eurasien’

Jahr der Veröffentlichung


Working Paper 58

Dziekanowice is a small rural community in Wielkopolska (Poznania, Great Poland, Großpolen) in western Poland that has undergone several changes caused by the introduction of free market principles. One of the factors that has redefined social relationships and helped to conceptualise them is 'work'. By using combined criteria of economic, social and cultural capital we can distinguish four social groups in the village: white-collar workers, rural proletarians, village proletarians and farmers. In the past, they used to share different images about a just society and the equality of classes, as well as of the meaning of work in defining the value of a person or group of persons. The state acted as the major employee in the community that also provided social security for all those employed in the public sector. Farmers were the only ones who worked on their own and this helped them to sustain the value of work as a distinctive characteristic of their class ethos. After the closure of the local state farm and the collapse of many small state enterprises in the neighbourhood, labour relations have significantly changed in the village during the 1990s. Many former state employees have been forced to find a job with local entrepreneurs and capital makers, some of them farmers living in the same community and being perceived as social equals, while others continue to be dependent on jobs offered by the local museum, a public institution that is the largest single employer in the neighbourhood. Changes in the local 'labour market' create new dynamics of social relations in which 'work' features as a significant factor shaping these relations and simultaneously contributes to the creation of personal and group identities. This essay explores these work-related problems of identity and social relationships that can be observed in this rural community.

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