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The Unbearable Rightness of Sharing: Informal Economic Practices in Post-socialist Central Europe

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Rok publikování 2014
Druh Konferenční abstrakty
Fakulta / Pracoviště MU

Přírodovědecká fakulta

Popis In the last quarter-century European post-socialist societies have experienced some of the most profound instances of economic neoliberalisation and globalisation. While in practical terms the processes of liberalisation, marketisation and privatisation were initially externally driven by international institutions, domestically the market also enjoyed an elavated symbolic status as part of the introduction of a package of ‘civilising mechanisms‘ which were destroyed under socialism (Holy 1996). This macro-economic restructuring occurred against the background of a set of widespread, yet ‘hidden‘ non-market economic practices at the micro-level such as sharing, caring and mutual help. Thus, despite some diminishment of the extent of informal relationships in the last two decades, in some areas (household food provisioning, house maintenance and construction) these societies have developed hybrid economies in which vibrant informal economic practices intersect with market-based relatonships. The paper takes issue with dominant accounts of post-socialist informal economic geographies which tend to devalue these everyday informal practices as either relics of the past (‘economies of shortage‘) or as the current survival tactics of the poor, in particular in the post-Soviet space (Round, Williams, Rodgers 2010). Drawing on empirical research conducted in Czechia and Poland and building on insights from a body of work in human geography (Smith and Stenning 2006) and social anthropology (Czegledy 2002; Acheson 2007) the paper offers a more positive conceptualisation of post-socialist informal economic practices while remaining sensitive to the importance of geographical difference for our understanding of these alternative economic spaces. While not necessarily perceived as sites of political opposition or resistance to market capitalism, these spaces are viewed by practitioners as constituing valuable domains of culturally and economically motivated human interactions separate from market relations. The paper shows that these spaces nurture – through enjoyment – trust, cooperation, mutual help and efficient use of resources and hence, by extension, greater personal and local resilience and ‘quiet sustainability’ (Smith and Jehlička 2013). In most areas including economic practices post-socialist Europe has traditionally been seen as a learner and importer of western ideas. Given the omnipresence and viability of post-socialist informal practices and their largely positive meanings – economic, socio-cultural and ecological – and given the urgently felt need to seek global alternative economic futures, the paper raises the question whether there is a possibility for the western ‘core‘ (but possibly also for rapidly industrialising developing societies) to learn from the experience of the ‘post-socialist periphery‘.
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