Czech rural communities and late socialism : threat, continuity and sustainability



Year of publication 2020
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description The image of late socialism in the Czech countryside is presented on seemingly contradictory scale. On the one side is the totalitarian history interpretation based on the destruction of traditional countryside and rural social structure, mainly by the collectivization of agriculture. On the other side, recent researches on everyday life and the social changes present rising of the living standard of rural people during late socialism and material welfare of the collectivized agriculture workers. Their income was higher than in the cities and due to self-supplying and strong social ties, they successfully faced limitations of non-effective socialist economy. How are these interpretations related? Decline and depopulation compared to adaptability and effective strategies of living not only by the material way but also by the continual existence of the social life? While rethinking anthropological and geographical theories on the case of Czech socialism, the relation between these two contradictory interpretations can be seen. The research was mainly involved by theory of the symbolic construction of community (A. Cohen) and by the concept of multifunctional countryside (G. Wilson). Phenomena with symbolic meaning (e.g. dance parties) is interpreted and understood by individuals but its importance is shared by members of the community of different age. It allows to maintain continuity of the community life over modernization processes and changes of social life. Multifunctional theory reflects different aspects of sustainability – social, economic and environmental. If they are (at least on minimal level) covered, community is sustainable and can survive over different crisis and threat coming from outside. Reflection of threat and decay of the existing social structure can lead to the higher pressure of community members to maintain recent social structure – e.g. focus on social activities with which they identify their community and its sustainability. If they have (at least limited) sources to maintain sustainability, they can adapt to state power interventions and way of governing applied from “above”. One of the studied locations can be an example for this – a small village endangered by the closure of public institutions, such as the pub and the school, due to village incorporation into a close city, as well as by agricultural collectivization and subsequent transformation of the local agricultural cooperative into a big production unit, which covers the whole of the region. The feeling of crisis and threat can induce the community members to be more active in the field of activities which can protect the existence of the community. By initiative of (mainly young) members of the community a community house for organizing events (feast celebrations, dance parties etc.) was built. They had to do “formal” late socialist activities such as join Socialist Youth union, formally cover ideological trainings and use formal (hyper-normalized) language on the official level to cover their “real” motivations – to maintain community life.
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