stegmann, natali

No Competition at All? Ideas of a Good Life in Late Socialist Societies: Working Place and Family (Examples from Poland and Czechoslovakia)

In Late Socialism the idea of a good life was directed towards the working place on the one hand and the family on the other. These were the places where life took place, and people obliviously tried to find a balance between them. Political and especially social demands towards the regime went in that direction. It seems as if work was more or less only a vehicle for better living conditions in all areas of social life (as housing, consumption, free time and so on). The family was valuated very highly as a place of individual well being. At the first glance competition was – as well as hierarchies – not a concept in the statements of socialist citizens in that period. Potential conflicts between family members as well as between working place and family were covered by the idea of and the demand for private well being. The paper will explore this thesis by the examples of Poland and Czechoslovakia from the Prague Spring of 1968 to the temporary end of the solidarity movement after the proclamation of martial law in 1981 by the analysis of open letters, political proclamations and other forms of communication between the regimes and their citizens. An analysis of statements from that period indicates that socialism was still treated as a political fact, as a model and as an everyday reality. But people also demanded social insurance and a certain degree of prosperity. Against this backdrop, the paper will analyse the changing meanings of crucial concepts in connection with the shifting conceptions of private and public spaces. It will thereby focus on working places and families as places of action and of interpretation.

Thursday 25 October 17:00-18:30 Panels VI, Panel 15 Competition in Socialism - Theoretical Approaches (Hall 7)