'Needscapes' in post-socialist Czech Republic: gendered experiences of work, care and social security interventions

Watson, Amy (2016) 'Needscapes' in post-socialist Czech Republic: gendered experiences of work, care and social security interventions. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.
Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b3255194


Work and unemployment, care, and related social security policies have been flashpoints for gendered discourses and practices across many nation states. In the Czech Republic, this has been the case during Czechoslovak state socialism and in the emergence of market-based democracy since 1989. These systems have differently contested the figure of the working and caring woman, and the state’s role in providing support and resources to its citizens, but have both done so in gendered ‘productivist’ terms. The everyday experiences of those citizens living through these macro-level changes has not often featured in analyses of ‘transition’ and the (neoliberal) capitalism which has followed – their navigation of these gendered systems, and the ways in which this may be post-socialist, is further underexplored.

Drawing on 22 interviews, alongside questionnaires and several months of observation with 10 previously unemployed single mothers participating in an NGO’s employability project, this thesis addresses this gap in the literature. Using a ‘needscapes’ analytical framework, I demonstrate that micro-level perspectives can usefully inform the design of policies and provision with which my participants were interacting. Many of my participants were experiencing financial, emotional and physical crises due to the Czech state’s disengagement with their needs, an inaccessible and low paying labour market which prioritised ‘independent’ male workers, and care services which excluded less well-resourced individuals. The group of single mothers and a small number of disabled people who numbered among my participants had particularly acute experiences of these issues.

My participants’ experiences of labour market, social security and care provision issues associated with neoliberalism were often post-socialist. This included their navigation of a precarious and low paid labour market, which they critiqued using images of Communist scarcity, and in which discourses about the inappropriate figure of the Communist working woman contributed to disciplinary gender enactments and budget-saving policies which sought to channel mothers out of the labour market. My analysis suggests that (sometimes contradictory) neoliberal discourses and practices in the Czech Republic are complexly intertwined with and co-produced through post-socialism, and often function in tandem with neo-conservative discourses about gender.

Many of my participants did not seek to live in the ways suggested by socially and politically prevalent discourses, that promote as the ideal citizen an (implicitly male) self-supporting, employed individual. My participants instead presented themselves as inter-subjectively connected to others, with their accounts of working, being unemployed, claiming social security, caring or receiving support experienced through their relationships with others and the needs of those around them. In their caring interactions, the value of dependent relationships and the involvement of both men and women in their caring kin networks highlight alternative gender enactments as characterising their navigations of post-socialist neoliberalism. Their perspectives dispute dominant political narratives about transition, which cast this as a process occurring at an individual – rather than collective – level, and resulting in a ‘self-supporting’ capitalist individual. Here, their experiences of ‘neoliberal’ change in the Czech Republic is complexly and inter-subjectively post-socialist, sometimes articulated through gendered enactments.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: czech republic, gender, social policy, social security, welfare, work, unemployment, care, unpaid care, unpaid work, needs, needscapes, disability, universal basic income, post-socialism, neoliberalism, capitalism, central and east european studies, area studies, qualitative, single mothers, productivism, czechoslovakia, state-socialism, communism, european union, european social fund.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
H Social Sciences > HX Socialism. Communism. Anarchism
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Central and East European Studies
Supervisor's Name: Kay, Professor Rebecca
Date of Award: 2016
Embargo Date: 15 February 2020
Depositing User: Dr Amy Watson
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7943
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2017 16:35
Last Modified: 24 May 2024 13:28
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/7943

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