Publication details

‘I have to like it’: Working-class awareness among workers at a Bata shoe factory



Year of publication 2023
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Thesis Eleven
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Keywords class; ethnography; factory; labor; working class
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Description The working class has been interpreted within various disciplines and conceptual frameworks, some pointing to the gap between the depiction of the working class as a potentially active social force in the neoliberal deregulated global market and its portrayal as a suffering class of the marginal and excluded. In this text, I move behind this dichotomy to explore the everyday experiences of working-class men and women. Based on ethnographic research at the Bata shoe factory in the Czech Republic, I examine the meanings factory workers attach to their working classness. I investigate their sense of place in society in general. I argue that class matters in the workers’ perceptions of the self. On the one hand, the workers adopt the awareness of subalternity in relation to the educational and further the labor field that ranks them among the lowest positions. On the other hand, they take individual pride in their endurance of the hard work that shoemaking is believed to be. The committed work and emphasis on collectivity turn the microorganism of the factory into a place of mutual discipline, where the praised collectivity functions also as a tool for enhancing work effectivity, also in the interest of the management. By pointing to the concrete dimensions in which they balance the feelings of pride and shame, belonging, and symbolic displacement, I contribute to the sociological understanding of contemporary working classness.
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