Privatizing Poland: Baby Food, Big Business, and the Remaking of Labor

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Privatizing Poland: Baby Food, Big Business, and the Remaking of Labor

By Elizabeth C. Dunn
Cornell University Press, 2004
224 pp. $45.00
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Dunn, an anthropologist, offers a ground-level appraisal of the new capitalism's impact on the Polish worker. She spent 16 months working alongside women on the shop floor, attending training programs, and talking to middle and senior management in a rural baby-food plant that had been privatized by Gerber, an American company. She wanted to see firsthand how workers and managers who had labored in a state socialist system took to an alternative economic model with different performance criteria, organizational forms, incentive structures, and marketing strategies. She found that the new ways were rapidly taking root, but with meanings and effects heavily shaped by the values and defenses Polish workers developed under the old order, with its chronic shortages, discontinuities, and self-help recourses. She focuses not just on worker behavior, but also on the way identity through labor is being reshaped in contemporary Poland.