Handbook of Employment and Society
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Handbook of Employment and Society

Working Space

Edited by Susan McGrath-Champ, Andrew Herod and Al Rainnie

This Handbook deepens and extends the engagement between research concerned with work and employment and labour geography. It links fundamental concepts concerning the politics of place that human geographers have developed in recent years with the world of work.
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Chapter 11: Work, Place and Community in Socialism and Postsocialism

Alison Stenning


Alison Stenning Introduction One of the most important and best known features of postwar labour history in East Central Europe was the emergence of Solidarity (Solidarność) in Poland in the early 1980s. Solidarity eventually emerged as a trade union, but a union rooted not only in workplaces but also in communities. This geographical connection between work and community was critical to Solidarity’s creation and development – and testifies to the central importance of spatial practices and spatial identities in worker activism (Herod, 1997; Rainnie et al., 2007). Yet, as I and others have argued elsewhere, the tight labour– community connection which Solidarity used so well in its development and survival was a legacy of an earlier policy, that which tied workplaces to communities in the construction of postwar Poland (Bivand, 1983; Stenning, 2003). Thus, in both the construction of socialism and in its collapse, the spatial articulations between work and community were key. The focus of this chapter is the changing nature of the work–community relationship in the socialist and postsocialist world, exploring the ways in which this spatial relationship has been critical not only to the shape of labour politics and working class struggles but also to the formation of identities, life chances and economic practices amongst working people in the context of repeated and deep social change in the now postsocialist world. In the postwar period, these states were constructed, at least in theory, as workers’ states (Haraszti, 1977; Crowley and Ost, 2001). For this reason, the work...

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