Privatizing Poland, Chpt 1-3

The first three chapters of Privatizing Poland are interesting not because they contain a lot of new information; through the rest of the readings the class has done, we know the basic problems caused by governments shifting from socialism to capitalism. I found the most interesting thing so far about this reading was the way socialism was represented in especially the first two chapters. Elizabeth Dunn represents socialism as much more supportive of people as individuals, as labourers as people, while capitalists, in this case Gerber managers, see people as only sources of labour, as commodities without personal needs that need to be fulfilled. More than anything else, I feel that she emphasises socialism as revolving more around moral standards and capitalism as revolving around profit. At least the profit obsession of capitalism is easily and obviously true.
Dunn makes me think about whether Poland, and other former socialist states, would have been much better off had capitalism never entered their borders. Honestly, I think that the it wouldn’t have worked out wonderfully. Dunn doesn’t imply that it was perfect, she even cites Verdery and all the issues with shortages and meeting quotas- but so far I feel she is definitely biased towards socialism. However, it could definitely be the case that she is simply taking on the views of the people she is studying, which would be an insight in and of itself.
Dunn spends more words on the managerial side of things as that is what needed to change the most from socialism to capitalism. Workers on the floor were still performing the same tasks- managers, however, had to completely shift their focus, the mentality that governed their everyday work activities. She talks about the issues caused by managers not being able to change with the times- though Gerber wanted to keep the old staff of the factory, the managers were too embedded in the old system. Their duties revolved around interpersonal relationships- which could be called corruption, in a capitalist society -and they were never conscious enough of the goal of profit over accumulation and use of materials. Dunn doesn’t give too many specific examples in the first couple chapters, though she does in the third, illustrating the introduction of niche marketing with Gerber’s sale of a fruit juice product marketed to teenagers, and uses it as well to introduce the obsession with flexibility that the market has developed. However, flexibility, she explains, is really just a creative way of telling employees they need to be able to risk and/or sacrifice everything for increased profits- something that is so very against the socialist mindset.

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