Getting By in Postsocialist Romania

Getting By in Postsocialist Romania

Labor, the Body, and Working-Class Culture
David A. Kideckel
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 02/27/2008
Format: Paperback 11 b&w photos, 2 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-21940-4
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This compelling ethnographic study describes how two groups of Romanian industrial workers have fared since the end of socialism. Once labor's elite, the celebrated coal miners of the Jiu Valley and the chemical workers of the Fagaras region had many social privileges and often derived genuine satisfaction from their work. Today, they are a rarely noted casualty of postsocialist transformations. Fear, distance, and alienation are the physical manifestations of stress experienced due to their precarious job status, declining health, and loss of a social safety net. Kideckel traces these issues in the context of labor, political relationships, domestic and community life, gender identities, and health. Drawing on more than three decades of fieldwork, he presents many narratives from select individuals, in their own words, providing a poignant and illuminating perspective on the everyday lives of ordinary people.

Author Bio

David A. Kideckel is Professor of Anthropology at Central Connecticut State University. He is author of The Solitude of Collectivism: Romanian Villagers to the Revolution and Beyond and has produced a video documentary focusing on Romania's Jiu Valley coal miners, entitled Days of the Miners: Life and Death of a Working Class Culture.


“Once labor's elite, the celebrated coal miners of the Jiu Valley and the chemical workers of the Fagaras region had many social privileges and often derived genuine satisfaction from their work. Today, they are a rarely-noted casualty of postsocialist transformations.”

“David Kideckel challenges celebratory images of postsocialism by focusing on the often neglected working class and allowing the disenfranchised to speak for themselves. In so doing he provides a contribution to the ethnography of eastern Europe that speaks poignantly to broader discussions of work, class, and gender under neoliberalism.”
 — Gerald Creed, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York

“The book is a valuable contribution to the field of postsocialist studies offering a compassionate discussion of the day-to-day experience of the depressed former industrial worker. It is engagingly written . . . by the author who has over thirty years of ethnographic research experience in Romania. It makes an excellent text for both undergraduate and graduate courses that deal with working-class culture, postsocialism, Eastern Europe, as well as social transformation and political economy to show how consumption and production are intimately related in the development of working-class identity.46 2012”
 — Canadian American Slavic Studies

“Kideckel's book gives a voice to the Romanian working class and lets them speak for themselves ... [he] states in a pointed manner that the meaning of 'getting by' has shifted from 'manipulating the system in one's interest' to managing basic survival' in every sphere of life.June, 2011”
 — H-SAE

“Overall, this is a very valuable book that sheds considerable light on a subject that is rarely covered in most literature on Romania.Vol. 88.3, July 2010”
 — Slavonic and East European Review

“What makes the book a ‘must-read’ for those interested in post-socialist Eastern Europe, or labour issues, is the fact that David Kideckel listens. He transforms the detailed account of day-to-day lives into authentic carefully interpreted written testimonies. This corpus of reflections makes an important contribution to Eastern European studies and reading it cannot leave a heart unmoved by the simple but powerful experiences that an entire social class was and is struggling with in post-socialist Romania.Vol. 61.9 Nov. 2009”
 — Gabriela Walker, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“. . . the text is wholly evocative, compellingly written, and clearly organized. 'Getting By in Postsocialist Romania' should appeal to a wide range of audiences, including scholars of postsocialist studies, those interested in issues of economic policy and development, health, and gender studies, and to students at all levels.Vol. 36.2 May 2009”
 — Karen Kapusta-Pofahl, Washburn University

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Table of Contents


1. Getting By in Postsocialism: Labor, Bodies, Voices
2. How Workers Became "Others": Talking Alienation
3. Postsocialist Labor Pains: Fear, Distance, and Narrative in the Workplace
4. The Postsocialist Body Politic
5. Houses of Stone or of Straw? Postsocialist Worker Communities
6. Strangers in Their Own Skin: Workers and Gender in Postsocialism
7. The Embodied Enemy: Stress, Health, and Agency
8. What Is to Be Done?

Works Cited

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