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Cementing modernisation: transnational markets, language and labour tension in a Post-Soviet factory in Moldova

Chamberlain-Creangă, Rebecca A (2011) Cementing modernisation: transnational markets, language and labour tension in a Post-Soviet factory in Moldova. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The aim of my thesis is to investigate workers’ reactions to transnational market reform in a Soviet-era factory in the Republic of Moldova. The thesis finds that there are varying, blurred responses of contestation and consent to market modernisation in the context of one factory, the Rezina Cement Plant of Egrafal Group Ltd., one of Moldova’s first major European transnational-corporate (TNC) private enterprises. Language plays a critical role in workers’ responses, since language is important to Egrafal Ltd.’s goal of market integration and capitalist labour reform. However, corporate language expectations frequently clash with the language that was previously embedded in Moldova’s industrial workscape. As a result, the thesis argues that workers adopt, resist or modify factory reforms through what I call linguistic styles or situational performative modes linked with ideas of modernity, markets and mutuality. The thesis goes on to argue that employees’ spatial status location in the plant, irrespective of job skill and income, corresponds to employees’ differing linguistic modalities and differing tendencies towards protest and accommodation in response to factory restructuring. Workers in the top strata of the factory’s Administration Building speak multiple languages, long for cosmopolitan lifestyles and benefit from high integration into corporate-market structures. Many achieved job mobility in the plant since socialism and now accommodate to capitalism and corporate styles through linguistic codeswitching. The middle strata of ethno-linguistic minorities in Administration’s laboratory and the lower strata on the shop floor lack corporate-backed linguistic capital and are on the fringe of modernisation; both are highly job insecure and protest capitalist change by way of what appears to be traditional language usage, but is in fact a contemporary response to liberal-economic change. This finding leads the study to conclude that workers’ fragmented linguistic-based reactions to market reform do not entail real protectionist collectivism, as Polanyi would have envisioned (Polanyi 1944, 150), nor enduring moral-economic protest along the lines of E.P. Thompson (1971). This is for the very reason of workers’ competing modernist longings and job insecurity – alienating workers from each other whilst drawing them back to local ties – which effectively keeps workers in perpetual oscillation between markets and mutuality.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2012 Rebecca A. Chamberlain-Creangă
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Parry, Jonathan

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