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‘Everything is new’ but ‘Everything is the same’ Transformations of Labour in a Factory in Bulgaria

Kofti, D; (2013) ‘Everything is new’ but ‘Everything is the same’ Transformations of Labour in a Factory in Bulgaria. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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This is a study of the everyday postsocialist politics of labour in the wider context of flexible capitalism during times of intense socio-economic transformations in Bulgaria. It is based on fieldwork in Mladost, a large-scale glass factory in Sofia. Two successive hegemonic teleologies—socialism, then capitalism—and repetitive economic crises shape the work experience in Mladost. Using shop floor ethnography, this study considers workers’ and managers’ local participation in macroeconomic processes. It highlights inequalities between regular and casual employment and between the genders. In 1997, Mladost was purchased from the state by a Greek multinational. This dramatically intensified a course of neoliberal downsizing, outsourcing labour, and accentuated the focus on core production. Mladost’s production was outsourced to larger corporations which brought new inequalities across the factory. The presence of ‘the market’ on the shopfloor has been rendered permanent and menacing. The thesis engages with these circumstances while grasping the relationships in production along the conveyor belt. Ethnography of the shop floor is complemented by a broad ethnographic scope: kinship ties inside and outside the plant; new discourses of ‘individuality’ and ‘flexibility’, interacting with pre-existing ‘collective productivity'; perceptions of the past; and the alternative ways workers use abandoned factory buildings. Neoliberal templates have introduced new characteristics to the organisation of production, thus causing fragmentations of the workforce. The divisions between casual and regular workers determine different degrees of insecurity, irrespective of common class experience. Workers make sense of radical upheaval in daily discussions about continuity and change; for them, ‘the past’ is constantly present. Along with daily resistance and complaint, visions of ‘no change’ encapsulate a perception of ever-lasting oppression and enduring structural power bridging socialism and capitalism. ‘Everything is the same’ and ‘everything has changed’ coexist in a peculiar combination, revealing the paradox of transformation.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: ‘Everything is new’ but ‘Everything is the same’ Transformations of Labour in a Factory in Bulgaria
Language: English
Additional information: Permission for digitisation not received.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1416830
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