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Populist or Communist Nostalgia? Peoples’ Economy in Post-Socialist European Union.

The CEU Campus
Monday, October 16, 2017, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

In this presentation I suggest we look deeper into people´s everyday economic practices and ideas under communism, their transmission, and/or re-invention by contemporary populism in order to understand a good part of the present day crisis of liberal economic and political system, particularly in post-communist East Central Europe. Using material gathered mostly in Slovakia, I argue for fuller understanding of ambivalent role that communist modernization had in developing of specific model of livelihood strategies, ideas, and practices I call post-peasant. This peoples’ economy is widely remembered regardless or as unintended consequence of communist modernization, not as an integral product of it. This economic model is further mobilized by skilled populist politicians. No memory of socialism, but in socialism, i. e. an understanding of peoples’ economy and politics I characterize as post-peasant has been transmitted across regimes regardless of how ‘successful/unsuccessful’ the national communist system was. This peoples’ model has been mobilized as nostalgia by skilled populists regardless of their political stance about the late communist period.

Juraj Buzalka is Associate Professor of Social Anthropology at Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences, Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia. His interests include anthropology of political movements, politics and/of religion, and anthropology of wine and food movements, particularly in East Central Europe. He is an author of Nation and Religion: The Politics of Commemoration in South-East Poland, Lit 2007 (vol. 14, Halle Studies in the Anthropology of Eurasia). Among his recent publications are ‘Workers and Populism in Slovakia’, in Victoria Goddard and Susana Narotzky, eds, Work and Livelihood in Times of Crisis: History, Ethnography, Models, Routledge 2017 (with Michaela Ferencová), and ‘The Political Lives of Dead Populists in Post-socialist Slovakia’ in Michal Kopeček and Piotr Wciślik, eds, Liberal Democracy, Authoritarian Pasts and the Legacy of 1989. The Last Two Decades of Political Thought in East Central Europe, CEU Press 2015. He is currently completing his monograph The Post-Socialist Reactionary Europeans at IAS-CEU.