Bruno Grancelli

Work and social polarization in transitional societies: the problem of black box explanations in comparative research

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This paper puts forward an assessment of approaches to social stratification in transitional societies of Central-Eastern Europe in which job attributes and type of employment contracts are linked to social polarization and class-related behaviours. The argument is that these approaches are bound to bring about black box explanations of the microfoundations of social change insofar as they provide an incomplete account of the action systems which unfolds in the social and organizational environments of work. The first section provides examples of what is left out in the construction of research objects which might help opening the black box: work, contract and labour within the transnational social spaces of multinational companies, on the one hand, work and social relations outside the spaces of the official economy and the national system of industrial relations, on the other. The second section addresses some of the motives why the black box is only partially opened and the micro-macro gap incompletely filled: the fact that quantitative data do not speak for themselves, the relative weight of the socialist legacies in different social and organizational environments, and the risk of uncritically transferring analytical approaches from one society to another.


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