Work in the Soviet Union: Attitudes and Issues

Work in the Soviet Union: Attitudes and Issues

Work in the Soviet Union: Attitudes and Issues

Work in the Soviet Union: Attitudes and Issues

Synopsis

The blind mendicant in Ukrainian folk tradition is a little-known social order, but an important one. The singers of Ukrainian epics, these minstrels were organized into professional guilds that set standards for training and performance. Repressed during the Stalin era, this is their story.

Excerpt

How can we study, from a distance, the nature of the work experience and workers' perceptions of their lot in an alien society whose workers lack their own public "voice"--legally recognized, "independent" or "free" organizations and publications through which they can act and speak in defense of their own collective interests? We pose this question not to suggest that this situation is unusual in the modern world or that we have undertaken an inordinately difficult task--it is not--but to point to certain obvious difficulties involved in studying work and its discontents in this kind of society. It becomes necessary to rely on certain "proxies," as it were, for workers' expressions of their own attitudes and perceptions of their working lives. Thus we can never be quite certain whether the voices we hear are those of workers themselves or their constrained "proxies." More specifically, we have drawn heavily on two types of sources: (a) sociologists' studies of workers' job attitudes and (b) the growing Soviet literature on the need for work reform. Our impression is that Western students of Soviet society and economy have not yet adequately examined these materials for the light they can shed on the Soviet workplace and its problems. Since these sources are not likely to be very familiar, and may appear suspect to some readers, a few words on each seem in order here.

Since the early 1960s the study of work attitudes and motivations has been a principal concern of some of the Soviet Union's leading sociologists. Any such studies must obviously carry a certain ideological "load." Marxian visions of the transformation of work from "a means to existence" to an intrinsically rewarding and satisfying activity ("man's prime living need") continue to be invoked even if they have lost much of their credibility. But our judgment is that a sufficient number of these studies have been conducted with the kind of objectivity and scientific spirit that justifies a systematic and critical review of their findings. the best of them have been ready to admit that the . . .

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