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Susan Zimmermann

This study argues that the changing relationship between paid work, unpaid work and paid care work and social services, and the struggle over this relationship and its implications, constituted key factors in shaping the ‘state socialist’ gender regime in Hungary from 1949 to the 1980s. The study is based on a wealth of recent scholarship, original sources and Hungarian research conducted during the state socialist period. It tries to give a balanced and inclusive analysis of key elements of women’s and gender history in the state socialist project of ‘catching-up development’ in a semi-peripheral patriarchal society, pointing to constraints, challenges and results of this project. Due to the complex interaction of a variety of actors and factors impacting on and shaping the state socialist gender regime not all women were affected in the same way by state socialist politics and gender struggles. Women’s status and opportunities, as well as gender relations, differed according to class, ethnicity and economic sector. As a rule, the gender struggle over state socialist family and gender arrangements in Hungary sought to reduce or temper tensions and conflicts by avoiding substantial or direct attack against the privileges of men both within the home and elsewhere.

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In and Out of the Cage

Women's and Gender History Written in Hungary in the State-Socialist Period

Susan Zimmermann

This article discusses writing on women's and gender history in the pre-1945 period, written and published in Hungary under state socialism. Education, struggle for social change, legal history, and the history of work formed the four most important clusters in this rich body of historiography. Considering the position of these publications in the state-socialist or Cold War period and in Central Eastern European historiography and their uneasy relation to gender history as established since the 1980s, we can characterize them as a triply marginalized body of writing. The article pinpoints how the authors connected the history of women and gender to larger processes of emancipation, other categories of analysis, and transnational perspectives in historical writing, and explores their contribution to the historiography of women and gender in the twentieth century and to the intellectual history of state socialism. It also discusses why this historiography has fallen into oblivion.

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Constructing the Socialist Worker

Gender, Identity and Work under State Socialism in Braşov, Romania

Jill Massino

Utilising socialist legislation, propaganda and oral history interviews, this article analyses how women’s identities and roles – as well as gender relations – were reformulated as a result of women’s participation in paid labour in socialist Romania. Although some women regarded work as burdensome and unsatisfying, others found it intellectually fulfilling, personally rewarding and, in certain respects, empowering. For example, work improved women’s economic position and offered them an array of social services, which, although inadequate in a number of ways, were welcomed by many women. Moreover, work increased women’s physical and social mobility, which in turn provided them with greater freedom in directing their own lives and in choosing a partner. Finally, the experience of being harassed by male co-workers and of combining work outside the home with domestic responsibilities motivated some women to rethink their status both within the workplace and the family, and to renegotiate their relationships with male colleagues and partners. Although women never achieved full equality in socialist Romania, by creating the conditions for women’s full-time engagement in the workforce, state socialism decisively shaped the course of women’s lives, their self-identities and their conceptions of gender roles, often in positive ways.

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Women's Work and Men

Generational and Class Dimensions of Men's Resistance to Women's Paid Employment in State-Socialist Poland (1956–1980)

Natalia Jarska

. … Masculinity as an object of knowledge is always masculinity-in-relation.” 3 Changing patterns of women's employment and conceptualizations of women's roles under state socialism have undoubtedly had an impact on masculinity, an impact that merits further

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Behind Closed Doors?

The Private Lives of the Minor Communist Party Activists in Romania, 1945–1960

Cristina Diac

-beating is a culturally accepted family practice “and even perceived as normal by a majority of people in Romania,” 11 a practice whose roots can be traced back to the state socialism period and even before 1945. Did the Romanian socialist regime connect

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Wojciech Śmieja

martyrdom) of Polish “martial patriotism” 3 converged in official representations of the disabled bodies of war veterans under state socialism. War-disabled veterans also embodied another important political myth: the myth of the new strong socialist

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A Woman Politician in the Cold War Balkans

From Biography to History

Krassimira Daskalova

Forum of Aspasia volume 8—is that, in order to better understand state socialism, we should stop producing the widespread delegitimizing narrative about totalitarian systems, question the simplified dichotomy of East and West that is so prominent in

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Natalia Jarska

This article focuses on gender relations and industrialization in the Stalinist and post-Stalinist period in Poland. Taking the example of a newly built metal factory in Kraśnik and its female workers, it shows the importance of local conditions for the process of the “productivization” of women. The article argues that in rural areas the access of women to the factory generated less conflict than in the urban milieu. The plant employed a great number of female workers in nearly every position—not as a result of any special “productivization” policy, but because women sought to work there. Women in Kraśnik did not see a conflict between their identities as women and wage work, including that in occupations traditionally dominated by men. In the course of de-Stalinization, the gender division of work became more important in shaping the employment policy of the factory. This article demonstrates how gender ideologies specific to peasant and workers' culture interacted in the process of industrialization.

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Krassimira Daskalova

Mihaela Miroiu argues that there was/is ‘a deep incompatibility between feminism and communism’ and that the proclaimed communist measures of gender equality were not feminist in intention and meaning. She insists also that one should differentiate between feminism as an ideal and feminism as ideology. Miroiu further claims that, even if there were some individual feminist gestures under ‘communism’, they didn’t have political consequences.