Remaking People and People’s Resistance in the Neoliberal Postsocialism

Michał Buchowski

I will examine the way advocates of the neoliberal order in postsocialism try to impose new system of values that can reorient people’s attitudes towards social reality. These efforts are aimed, inter alia, at the creation of a ‘new person’ that neatly matches emerging market principles. On the one hand, the reconstruction of a person involves his/her de-construction as a member of a tightly- knit social network. On the other hand, it implies a creation of a person that perceives himself/herself as an individual that can be gauged and valued according to the principles of market economy. This already well-advanced process has profoundly modified everyday practices of families, communities, and collectivities of peopele working together. However, it also triggers resistance of ordinary people who want to preserve their time-honored values and their dignity embedded in past experience.

These phenoemena also ask for an analysis of the way the hegemony of those in power and intellectual elite stimulate everyday resistance of the subalterns and how this hegemony conditions the protests of politically organized movements. Opposition to the discourse of dominant culture assumes various shapes. It starts with the daily small disobedience, this ‘weapon of the weak’ (as James Scott put it), through which people neutralize disciplining efforts of the state. Resistance is also detectable in the nationalist and religious rebuttal of values perceived as endangering nation’s endurance (e.g. sovietization in the past or licentious Western lifestyle today). The opposition to the dominant practices and discourses was also expressed through spectacular actions of the youth protesting against oppressive communist state and through road blockades staged by anti-liberal ‘populists’ or anti-globalists’ demonstrations. This spectrum of modes and motives of resistance does not preclude the existence of patterned forms of its articulation.

Paradoxically, resistance can lead to the dialectical process called the ‘jujitsu of domination and resistance’ (Michael Kearny’s expression). In politics, jujitsu forms of domination (here, the disciplining discourses and practices advancing neoliberalism) mobilize the active efforts in self-defense which, in turn, provide the energy deployed in subalterns’ subjugation. By contesting dominant cultures those who contest changes, reinforce the negative images about themselves as stubborn and obliterating progress. I will discuss in what way this intricate social dialectics is presented both in political discourses and scholarly accounts

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