In this issue, OZ opens a wide-ranging debate about work: its religious, philosophical, economic, and social connotations. We asked our contributors to look at the subject from the perspective of employers, workers and the unemployed. We wanted the problem to be analyzed at a social and cultural angle, as well as economic. We aimed to grasp a notion of why we need to work, how work-related problems are interpreted in different cultures, what ‘working’ means to various social classes, etc.
The Federal government is often accused of having no vision of social policy. Minister of Labor and Social Development of the Russian Federation Alexander Pochinok counters the charge in an interview with OZ. He offers our readers the government’s perception of the role the state should play in the regulation of the labor market in Russia.
Eugeny Gontmakher, head of the governmental Department of Social Development, presents an overview of the main concerns inherent in the present thrust of the government’s social-economic policy. The government official puts labor problems in a broader context, including local governance, pensions and related demographic issues, tax collection and distribution, education, and geopolitical realities.
In May 2003, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Mikhail Kasianov approved a Federal Labor Market Policy for 2003-2005. We publish sections of the document assessing the current situation and trends in the labor market over the next few years.
Dr Sergey Smirnov criticizes the document. While the author has some complimentary view of the data gathered by the authors of the governmental program, he notes that their recommendations concerning possible future actions to regulate the market do not leave hope for a conceptual break-through. He welcomes the fact that the government seems to stick to the ‘do no harm’ principle.
Yuri Kuznetsov looks into the notion and practicalities of the so-called ‘socially oriented state.’ The author maintains that the establishment of its institutions limit individual and proprietary rights of some people in favor of the others. People in this kind of a society can claim different sorts of social assistance, and this leads to the enforced redistribution of wealth.
Since the mid-1990s, the Russian unemployment service has taken a number of steps that resulted in paying less money to a smaller number of unemployed, which, contrary to some expectations, failed to provide a socially acceptable level of income to unemployed, and, consequently, to assist them in finding new jobs. Tatyana Chetvernina explains paradoxes and inefficiencies of Russian unemployment policies.
Political choices have existential consequences, both for individuals and society. Treating all social and national problems with economic and market means is analogous to curing all diseases with penicillin. Ruslan Khestanov, in his essay about time, labor, and capital, points to the global and national outcomes of neoliberal policies.
What is going to happen to a national tradition of labor-management relations in the course of globalization? Is it going to disappear, follow the American standard, or evolve into some new national model? Alexander Malinkin compares opposing research hypotheses about perspectives of the German model of industrial democracy with the reality of today’s relationship between workers and management.
Alexander Nikulin introduces a distinguished American anthropologist and scholar of oriental rural societies, James Scott, and presents a synopsis of ideas from the scientist’s major works still widely used by scholars. Scott articulates major traditional principles of rural survival and formulates the rule of moral economy that governs the life of the hired labor and its relationship with the business elite and political establishment.
In the round-table discussion, government officials, academics, and CEOs exchange opinions on the problems of the labor market and related social policies.
Rostislav Kapeliushnikov views the domestic labor market not as a bunch of anomalies but as coherent system ruled by its own logic. Legislation and real life in the field diverge strikingly, and future historians will hardly get to understand the reality if they restrict themselves to studying just the legal situation. How the conflict between rigid legislation and utterly flexible practices of the labor market can be solved? Kapeliushnikov sums up pros and contras of the status quo and outlines what he views as an optimal reform strategy.
Today the Russian labor market suffers excessive regulation, according to Vladimir Gimpelson. Tough labor law protects ineffective insiders and keeps out great numbers of unemployed including young people. Gimpelson researches the reasons of the reform slipping and points to potential reform beneficiaries and losers.
Today’s universities and vocational schools grossly overproduce overqualified jobseekers that will not want lower-level jobs. This will create a workforce deficit and exacerbate other severe disproportions of the current Russian labor market. Andrey Korovkin points to the likely outcomes of the situation and suggests an outline of governmental priorities in the field.
Zhanna Zayonchkovskaya looks at the controversial subject of migration and immigration from the aspect of their potential influence on the demographic situation in Russia. To escape a shortage of labor and other ensuing problems, Russia will have to welcome an external influx of human resources, but the country’s vast territory, and the dramatic imbalance in density of population from West to East make the issue extremely complex. The author is convinced that it is hardly feasible to compensate the population deficit in eastern territories of Russia by inducing migration from the European zone.
Yanis Astafiev analyzes an ambivalent demographic situation in Russia and evaluates what economic outcomes it could entail. He points out that political factors do not determine the birth-rate decline either in Russia or other countries. More than that, pessimistic depopulation forecasts for Russia have proven to be overstated. The author hypothesizes about the influence of demographic factors in Russia on the structure of future labor market. One of the interesting points is that in the near future the labor force in Russia will be predominantly male, which will lead to a migration of employable men into the realm of traditional women’s jobs, such as teachers, accountants, and office attendants. The presently popular business-lady image will probably wane, as its carriers will again turn to the family and household.
According to popular liberal thinking, cutting social protection of workers by labor legislation is a straight way to economic growth. That is a gross simplification, argues Aliya Nurtdinova. Nurtdinova suggests guidelines for a modern package of labor laws in Russia.
Mikhail Mikhailovsky shows the difference between an old Soviet Labor code and a new Code enacted in 2002. Left-wingers accuse it of having a bias towards employers’ interests. Mikhailovsky tries to show how it protects the rights of workers.
Labor codes in Russia have been changing with time. Dominant political ideas as well as the very language of legislation is representative of the kind of society a code is created in. Olga Edelman compares labor codes created during the Soviet epoch.
In transforming economies, both external and internal rules of corporate functioning are unsettled, and people are quite often unsure which management strategy to choose. Svetlana Klimova examines different types of labor relations based on a case study of relations at three Russian enterprises. The case studies demonstrate results of the types of intracorporate managerial strategy.
Speculating about Russian Orthodox labor-related values has become a common way to explain Russia’s inability to reform, notes Vladimir Magun. Citing sociological research, Magun draws a parallel between principles of protestant ethics and high Stalin communist values and tries to conceptualize a new labor ideology that is developing in transforming Russia.
According to polls, most Russian respondents think that Russian people are hard and able workers. They blame external conditions, e.g. low pay and economic instability, for their own bad performance at work. Evgeniia Gvozdeva’s analysis offers insights into the changing work-related attitudes and values of the Russian society.
Throughout history and across human cultures, each social class has been defined by its attitude towards the concept of labor. Some have understood it as a means of personal self-actualization and moral perfection, whereas others have been viewing it as a mere yoke. Today, the high moral status of labor nurtured by Christianity is being corrupted again, and the concept of joyful, creative, and perfecting labor is becoming more and more thought of as a pleasing retreat of some eccentric representatives of a global elite. In a historical-philosophical account of a labor concept, Natalya Zarubina argues on paradoxes of mutating perceptions of the idea in Soviet and in modern globalizing Russia.
In Soviet ideology, the word ‘trud’ supplemented traditional ‘rabota’ to denote work process in official context. Anna Minaeva describes peculiarities and evolution of the word’s folklore usage in «naive literature» (memoirs and other written works written by non-professional writers).
The collapse of the Soviet symbolic universe brought into being new cults and quasi-religious sects. Alexander Panchenko analyzes ideology and practices of the so-called «Church of the Last Testament» that united a portion of ex-Soviet «technical intelligentsia.»
Official Soviet pedagogy considered working as an only acceptable way of human existence and nurtured a quasi-religious attitude towards work. Svetlana Leontieva’s article illustrates the totalitarian approach to education and upbringing that contrasted with the older ambivalent popular attitudes.
Historically, labor in Russia had more often been rewarded morally rather than in monetary form. Thus, as a folk proverb says, one can’t make a fortune by honest means. Based on 18th century historical material, Olga Kosheleva analyzes the employer philosophy that cultivated this peculiar attitude.
In their industrial organizational process, Soviet authorities had both to create economic incentives for workers and to constrain their ability to get rich. In each case, they had to find a margin between an honest work valuable for the society and private gain and profiteering. A rare employee did not steal. Some underground entrepreneurs were building serious capital. Investigating all those offenses was slow and ineffective: only about 15 percent of the damage was repaired. Where did all that money go? Olga Edelman’s overview of the history of the Soviet shadow economy reads as a good detective story.
The key element of the Stalinist communist system was not the Stalin personality cult but the institution of forced labor incorporated in and owned by the chekists. Whose labor did the system use? What were the terms of the social contract? How effective was it? Modest Kolerov answers these and other questions in a story of creation and demise of the Lavrentii Beria’s economy which is symbolic of the whole body of Soviet economy.
In the Our choice section, we publish a synopsis of Jeremy Rifkin’s The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era.
In the Publication section, we offer «La fin du travail, un mythe demobilisateur» by Robert Castel, and Simon Clark’s article on the evolution of Russian and Chinese trade unions.
The repartition of the ex-Soviet ball-bearing market ended up creating a single corporation that controls virtually the whole market. Konstantin Kazenin tells a story of a Moscow ball-bearing plant whose workers want both themselves and their enterprise to survive.
Why did the Soviet people, who were described by sociologists as rigid, behave so flexibly in the times of post-Soviet transformation? Alexander Nikulin’s story of a Moscow woman-hairdresser based on an in-depth sociological interview with the both bright and typical female urban dweller helps to understand better the evolution of work and private life of Russian people.
In the OZ discussion section, we continue the debate of problems of the Russian defense and military. When it comes to the question of strategic threats to Russia’s sovereignty, the disagreement is huge: some assert that there are none, whereas others see a threat in virtually everything and everybody. Army General and President of the Military Academy Makhmut Gareev articulates present external and internal security threats to Russia and outlines government objectives in developing a concept of national defense security that has to replace an outdated concept of military security.
Mikhail Khodarenok’s saga unveils the tragic existence of Russian army commanders in their existential fight to solve innumerable household and maintenance problems instead of concentrating on the tasks of combat training.
In the Country of OZ section, Vladimir Kagansky gives a geographical overview of an Inner Ural Mountains, and Boris Rodoman tells a story of his trip to the republic of Bashkortostan.