Industrial hegemony and moral economy in a Ukrainian metalworking city

Special report. Grounded companies and the role of states
By Denys Gorbach

This article investigates factory regimes in Kryvyi Rih, a mining and metalworking city in eastern Ukraine. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, it studies the reproduction of industrial hegemony in the context of major post-Soviet transformations (privatization and austerity measures). The comparison of three cases representing different hegemonic configurations (mines privatized by Ukrainian businessmen, a metalworking factory bought by a foreign company, and quarries acquired by a Ukrainian vertically integrated holding) sheds light on variations in this process. These differences are due how “native” to Ukraine the new owner is perceived to be and the new owner’s capacity to suppress dissent; to the kind of informal relationships that govern the labor process and trade union activities; and to the social embeddedness of the owner at factory and city levels. The article shows how the construction and preservation of a hegemonic bloc between the dominant and the subaltern groups at the enterprise level rely on a vernacular moral economy in which the factory’s economic activities are embedded. Post-Soviet industrial paternalism is the product of dynamic expectations that are prone to change under the influence of the policies of legitimate owners.

  • factory regime
  • Fordism
  • hegemony
  • industry
  • labor
  • paternalism
  • postsocialism
  • trade unions
  • working class
  • Ukraine
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