Changing Patronage and Informality Configurations in Ukraine: From the Shop floor Upwards

Denys Gorbach

Abstract


This article examines hegemonic norms of political and moral economy in Ukraine today acting at the level of the workplace. My research is based on fieldwork I conducted in a large industrial city in the east of Ukraine from January to June 2019. Using the general Gramsci-inspired theoretical framework and the insights of Hillel Ticktin, Simon Clarke and Michael Burawoy regarding Soviet and post-Soviet factory regimes, I analyse differences between the life-worlds of workers, relating them to the structurally different context in which they find themselves. All enterprises feature path-dependent informal bargaining and underinvestment as cornerstones of their factory regimes. However, they differ in the ways in which these traits combine in practice. These configurations, in turn, elicit different strategies and attitudes from the workers, each of them more typical at one enterprise than at others: an archaic manufactory attitude at a new window factory, exit in mines torn between owners, voice at the foreign-owned metalworking factory, and loyalty at a ‘native’ oligarchic holding. The general trend is not towards eliminating informality as a ‘post-Soviet residue’ but rather towards renegotiating it with different outcomes.


Keywords


factory regime; informality; labour, patronage; post-socialist

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