Class Narratives in Postidustrial Urban Development Debate. a Case Study from Poland

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 09:15
Oral Presentation
Magdalena REK-WOŹNIAK, University of Łódź, Poland
The paper will be based on the ongoing case study aimed at reconstructing class narratives emerging in Łódź, the third largest city in Poland which grew rapidly in the second half on the XIXth century as a centre of textile industry and island of modernization in a rural society. With polarized social structure and strong labour movement, it gained labels of “Manchester of the East” and “red” city. Under communist rule, despite the establishment of academic and cultural institutions, Łódź remained distinct, with relatively big share of unskilled workers and low quality of life. It was heavily hit by socio-economic transformation after 1989, gaining the nickname of “Polish Detroit”. Since then, it has been in constant and desperate search of new identity. The reshaping of the social structure has become a core aim of strategic projects implemented by municipal authorities within the last decades.

The paper will focus on the understanding of the social class expressed in the debates about the future of the city. It will be based on the analysis of documents and media content and on in-depth interviews with political/policy and academic actors. The particular attention will be paid to the way various concepts of class penetrate the discourse. The way they are applied, understood and (re-)constructed locally seem important for the design and implementation of policies.

The argumentation will be grounded in two assumptions. Firstly, social classes engage in stratification processes by everyday practices, participating in struggles over redistribution and/or by the attempts to set frameworks for debates on citizenship, representation etc. These activities can be analyzed as “class politics”. Secondly, while the social structure is generally constructed on the macro level, processes occurring locally seem to play a key role in shaping living conditions and opportunities for the citizens. These local contexts seem particularly under-studied.