Russian Talk (Rating: 2 - 33 votes)
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Russian Talk, Privatizing Poland: Baby Food, Big Business, and the Remaking of Labor, Russia Gets the Blues
The transition from socialism in Eastern Europe is not an isolated event, but part of a larger shift in world capitalism: the transition from Fordism to flexible (or neoliberal) capitalism. Using a blend of ethnography and economic geography, Elizabeth C. Dunn shows how management technologies like niche marketing, accounting, audit, and standardization make up flexible capitalism's unique form of labor discipline. This new form of management constitutes some workers as self-auditing, self-regulating actors who are disembedded from a social context while defining others as too entwined in social relations and unable to self-manage.
Privatizing Poland examines the effects privatization has on workers' self-concepts; how changes in "personhood" relate to economic and political transitions; and how globalization and foreign capital investment affect Eastern Europe's integration into the world economy. Dunn investigates these topics through a study of workers and changing management techniques at the Alima-Gerber factory in Rzeszow, Poland, formerly a state-owned enterprise, which was privatized by the Gerber Products Company of Fremont, Michigan.
Alima-Gerber instituted rigid quality control, job evaluation, and training methods, and developed sophisticated distribution techniques. The core principle underlying these goals and strategies, the author finds, is the belief that in order to produce goods for a capitalist market, workers for a capitalist enterprise must also be produced. Working side-by-side with Alima-Gerber employees, Dunn saw firsthand how the new techniques attempted to change not only the organization of production, but also the workers' identities. Her seamless, engaging narrative shows how the employees resisted, redefined, and negotiated work processes for themselves.", As one of the first Western ethnographers working in Moscow, Nancy Ries became convinced that talk is one crucial way in which Russian identity is constructed and reproduced. Listening to the grim stories people used to characterize their lives during perestroika, and encountering the florid pessimism with which Muscovites described the unraveling of Soviet governance, Ries realized that these dire tales played a crucial role in fabricating a sense of shared experience and destiny. While many of the narratives aptly depicted the chaotic social and political events, they also promoted key images of "Russianness" and presented Russian society as an inescapable realm of injustice, absurdity, and suffering. At the height of perestroika in the early 1990s, Moscow residents commonly used the phrase "complete ruin" to refer to the disintegration of Russian society, encompassing in that phrase the escalation of crime, the disappearance of goods from stores, the fall of production, ecological catastrophes, ethnic violence in the Caucasus, the degradation of the arts, and the flood of pornography. Ries argues that such stories became a genre of folklore consistent in their lamenting, portentous tone and their dramatic, culturally poignant details., Michael Urban chronicles the advent of blues music in Russia and explores the significance of the genre in the turbulent, postcommunist society. Russians, he explains, have taken a music originating in the "low" culture of the American South and transformed it into an object of "high" culture, fashioning a social identity that distinguishes blues adherents from both the discredited Soviet past and the vulgar consumerism associated with the country's Westernization. While adapting the idiom to their own conditions, Russia's bliuzmeny (bluesmen) have absorbed the blues ethos encoded in the music by their American forebears, using it to invert their social world, thus deriving dignity and satisfaction from those very things that give one the blues.Based on more than forty interviews with blues musicians and fans, nightclub managers, and others, Russia Gets the Blues reveals the fascinating history of blues in Russia, from the initial mimicry of British blues-rock to the recent emergence of a specifically "Russian blues." The gradual mastering of the idiom in Russia has been conditioned by the culture of the country's intelligentsia, a fact explaining why, on one hand, bliuzmeny feel compelled to proselytize on behalf of the music, to share with others this treasure of "world culture," while, on the other, they perform blues almost exclusively in English which almost no one understands and condemn any and all efforts to make the music commercially successful."