CfA: The neoliberal turn and the history of everyday life in Central and Eastern Europe

Call for Articles, deadline 31 August 2023

Call for papers

The neoliberal turn and the history of everyday life in Central and Eastern Europe
in the decades following the regime changes of 1989-1990

Special issue of the Journal of Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe
to be published in Spring 2024

The political regime changes of 1989/90 and the rapid restructuring of the planned economies, also referred to as “shock therapy” in the 1990s radically transformed not only the political, economic and social relations in Central and Eastern Europe, but also the structure and functioning of everyday life. While the state socialist countries were ruled by political dictatorships, the Communist regimes maintained not only universal employment but also a welfare state, which covered free education and health care, the generous support of high culture and community building and a wide range of state-run childcare institutions. These achievements were, of course, used to legitimize the rule of political dictatorships and were even regarded as a “compensation” for the loss of political freedom.

The system change fundamentally transformed the great structures of social life such as the political and economic spheres, the electoral systems and the distribution of wealth and property. The population became divided to the groups of “losers” and “winners”, and the 1990s also produced rapidly rising social inequalities alongside the dismantling of the “prematurely born” welfare state. The appearance of new industries driven by multinational capital and the creation of new capitalist classes were accompanied by processes of de-industrialization, the decline of traditional industries such as mining and metallurgy, the establishment of new social ghettos in the place of former factory towns and the experience of unemployment and new poverty.

This thematic issue focuses on the everyday life experience of system change and the past three decades and the question of how the radical transformation of the big structures were reflected in the lives of ordinary people. How did they adapt to the changing social and economic conditions? How did they attempt to interpret the system change from the perspective of the “little man”? How did consumption patterns, housing and nutrition change during the past decades? How did the system change impact on the situation of women and the old and new gender struggles? In what ways did privatization, and the redistribution of income and wealth cause new social inequalities? How did these changes manifest themselves in the everyday life of different social groups?

Studies on postsocialism have shown that the new conditions triggered new strategies of adaptation. Life situations and life strategies have also been completely re-differentiated. The emergence of market relations created a temporary anarchy in everyday life in the early 1990s. The economic restructuring or “shock therapy” and the dismantling of the “premature” welfare state caused lasting traumas for millions of people, who were not accustomed to the conditions created by “wild” capitalism. All these had a formative impact on the everyday life, the memories of state socialism and the way of thinking of the new generations, who were born after the regime changes.

The thematic issue seeks to bring together contributions from the field of sociology, anthropology, historical anthropology, gender studies and political science, which address the issues of the radical transformation of the material and non-material life worlds after the collapse of state socialism. Papers can focus on various aspects of everyday life: consumption, housing, fashion, nutrition and eating habits, leisure time, and changes in values, public thinking social roles and attitudes, gender and family roles and ideologies in a historical, sociological and cultural anthropological context. Papers addressing different aspects of collective memory are also welcome.

Please submit your papers by 31 August 2023.
Maximum length: 30,000-60,000 characters


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