The course aims to offer students (1) an overview of main issues in the labor history of state socialism and the post-socialist period, drawing on the most recent literature in the field; and (2) to familiarize students with qualitative research methods, and participant observation in particular, in the study of labor struggles past and present.

The course covers the period of state socialism in the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc in a comparative perspective, with a focus on how a variety of pre-existing labor relations, as organized according to the gender division of labor, the relationship between subsistence and wage labor, and traditions of workers’ organization and workers’ resistance, were transformed by the state socialist political economy and the exigencies of catch-up development. It brings into focus the globalization of labor beginning in 1970s, and how it reflected on labor relations in state socialism. Finally, it asks how the transition from state socialism - political change, the establishment of new property regimes, and economic reform - have impacted the worlds of labor in former state socialist contexts. Participants in the course, including the instructor, will engage in 6 weeks of “field research” in a site of labor of their choosing. The sites will determine the topics of the theoretical meetings as well as structure the parallel methodological discussions for the second half of the course.