The varieties of informal work in contemporary societies


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Scientific Board

Rada Naukowa

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Detailed conference programme

Download the Social Boundaries of Work conference programme (pdf)

Here you can find all abstracts in alphabetical order.

The keynote speakers – Prof. Katharina Bluhm, Dr Stanisław Cichocki, Prof. Klaus Doerre, Prof. Jane Hardy, Prof. David Ost, Prof. Kazimierz Sowa and Jarosław Urbański

It is now confirmed that the keynote speakers during the next Social Boundaries of Work conference will be prof. Katharina Bluhm (Freie Universität Berlin), dr Stanisław Cichocki (Uniwersytet Warszawski), prof. Klaus Doerre (Friedrich Schiller University Jena), prof. Jane Hardy (University of Hertfordshire), prof. David Ost (Hobart and William Smith Colleges, USA), prof. Kazimierz Sowa (Uniwersytet Jagieloński) oraz Jarosław Urbański (KK OZZ Inicjatywa Pracownicza)

Prof. Katharina Bluhm – Freie Universität Berlin

Informality and Institutions in an East-West perspective

Studies on informality in Easter Europe usually focus on personalistic networks and extra-legal economic activities. The hidden benchmark is a (formal) rule-driven ‘West’. However, informal norms of behavior and practices are a part of institutions even in most developed societies and economies. Their specific interaction with formal rules is a key for understanding how western varieties of capitalism operate and change as well. By using the liberalization of the so-called “German Model” as an example, I argue that ideas of liberalization in the 2000s included a new wave of formalization (not just de-regulation) and a regrouping of informal responses. The talk concludes with some lessons for an East-West integrated research agenda.

Prof. Klaus Doerre – Friedrich Schiller University Jena

Discriminatory Precarity: Extent, subjective coping practices and social consequences of insecure working and living conditions
In the international press, Germany currently appears as a role model for successful economic development. Employment figures have reached a record high, unemployment is declining and, despite the crisis of the Euro, wages in export-oriented industries are rising. However, as this contribution argues, this development is linked to the rise of a historically new form of post- welfare state discriminatory precarity. On the basis of our own empirical research, the contribution outlines a typology of insecure working and living conditions that draws on the work of French sociologist Robert Castel, while at the same time extending his framework to take account of the subjective practices of coping with insecurity. The contribution shows that the crisis of 2007 to 2009 has accelerated the spread of precarious conditions of work and employment. Germany is becoming a society of ‘full activity’ (as opposed to full employment) in which long-term unemployment is replaced by a specific type of circular mobility inside the precarious sector. More than 20 % of German employees and their families live in conditions located close to the threshold of social respectability – a zone in which wages are partly being pushed below the level of reproduction costs. This split of employment society also has far-reaching political consequences. Trade unions will have to develop new forms of participation and political action in order to become capable of organizing collective action in the precarious sector. This is all the more important as the German „employment miracle“ rests on the economic base of an exportism that reinforces economic and social asymmetries within the Euro zone. The conclusion is that the German labour market’s development is not suitable to serve as a model for Europe.

Prof. Jane Hardy University of Hertfordshire

Against pessimism: precarious workers – a dangerous but not separate class

The structure of the argument developed here is fivefold. First, it is argued that suggestions that contemporary capitalism is fundamentally new and unprecedented are undermined if precarity is set in the historical and spatial context of capitalism. Second, it is posited that if capitalism is understood as dynamic and contradictory, there are limits to precarity and the working class and its composition and characteristics are in constant change. Third, there is a focus on migrant workers which argues they are intrinsic to capitalism and not on its periphery and that recent history demonstrates that they are a group capable are organising against their own exploitation. Four, it is suggested that the notion of a privileged salariat demonstrates a very limited understanding of the lives of working lives of ordinary people, particularly those in public sector work. Finally, it is argued that to suggest that the precariat is a separate ‘class in the making’ is analytically flawed and divisive in practise. Lastly, it is argued that there is no theoretical premise for regarding a chaotically defined precariat as a class-in-the-making and it is politically divisive to embed such divisions.

Prof. David Ost – Hobart and William Smith Colleges, USA

Left Critiques of Industrial Society and the Rise of the Precariat

Criticism of industrialsociety hasdeeprootsinlefttraditions. Onthe one hand, human beings are defined as animals who consciously and reflexively labor to transform their worlds; on the other, their actual labor in the real world is conducted under terms of alienation,leading to the classic Marxist paradox that humans alienate themselves precisely when they undertake the most human of activities. It was only after the widespread availability of Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts in the 1950 sth atalienation became a central topic to theleft. This contributed to the development of two distinct tendencies: a theory of a “new working class,” and the promotion of a world free from work, at least in the alienated industrial sense which was dominant in both the Westand the East of the Cold War. Both western Marxists grouped around the Frankfurt School and critical east European “humanist Marxists”grouped around the “Praxis”school promoted such aview. Butno one combined both approaches so fully as the French-German political theorist Andre Gorz. A prominent theorist of the idea of a “new workingclass” (in hisseminal 1980 book, Farewell to the Working Class),Gorzsaw the abolition of alienated work itself as a goal, and in the course of developing the seide as, culminating in his 1991 book Capitalism, Socialism, Ecology, promoted the idea of part-time, irregular , innovative forms of employment as an emancipatory idea. In some ways, then, Gorz and the left promoted, as an emancipatory evolution,the emergence of what we now call the “precariat.” This essay will outline this left lineage, focusing on the contribution of Gorz, and will explore ways in which today’s precariat both mocks ,and yet also partially realizes, the aspirations of critical leftthinkers of the recent past.

Prof. Kazimierz Z. Sowa – Uniwersytet Jagieloński

Human Work – Its types, Forms and Limitations

Economic activity – based on man’s work – belongs to primary forms of human activities. Alongside the family (blood relationships) and religion it makes the primary element of collective life of the civilized societies. I the paper the author deals with social forms of the human work and on the mayor components of the complex work process. He singles out and discusses three basic – according to him – forms of labour: (1) slave-labour, (2) hired labour, (3) free (free-lance) labour, and he characterises the specificity of these forms. Then he distinguished the following major components of the work process: (1) designation of the work aim (intention), (2) choice or creation of performance procedure(s) (methods), (3) behavioural execution, (4) developing of the results (output of the work process). Full subjective (personal) integration of all these components is possible just in the case of free labour. Nowadays such a kind of labour is accessible for rare groups of jobholders only: learned professionals, free-lance artists, decreasing part of academy, some – rather rare – groups of people involved in unofficial economy. The bulk of contemporary working people are hired one. In that dominant collectivity of employees, affinities and working relationships are regulated by the famous Marxian antinomy of the labour and the capital.

Particular consideration to unofficial (second, black, etc.) economy and its social determinants is given in second part of the lecture.

The author proposes his own classification of different types of jobs practised in unofficial ways occurred in current economy. He also tries to picture the role of informal economy in demise of state (“real”) economy in Poland.

Jarosław Urbański – KK OZZ Inicjatywa Pracownicza

Precariat and trade unions

Question is: do precarious workers organize themselves and and struggle effectvely for higher wages and better working conditions? Precarization has led to weaker “structural bargaining power” of workers and strikes the trade unions. But it strikes only those that also based its position on “structural bargaining power”, eg. spatial concentration of workers and the importance of unionized branches (industries) in the national and international division of labour or low unemployment etc. The “associational bargaining power” requires different tools that trade unions often do not have today.

Accommodation – Conference message no.3

Dear Colleagues,

We would like to provide you with information about possible accommodation for the conference participants.

Hotel Śródmiejski – (approximately 2,8 kilometres from the conference venue)

Żeromskiego 23
65-066 Zielona Góra

tel.: +48 68 415 24 15
fax: +48 68 325 44 71

There is a possibility to book a single room with a discount after giving the code: “Social boundaries of work”. The code for the preferential price expires with the end of September and the number of rooms is limited, therefore we recommend to book as soon as possible. After this deadline, the remaining rooms will be available at regular prices.

The offer is as followed:
– Deluxe Single Room – 185.00 PLN (ca. 45€)
– Standard Single Room – 160.00 PLN (ca. 39€)

All rooms are with private bathroom. Breakfast and access to the public WiFi are included.
The parking is paid 20.00 Polish Zloty/per day – access from ul. Ciesielska 1.

Aura Hotel – (approximately 0, 4 kilometers from conference venue)

Aura Hotel
ul. Leśna 15b
65-794 Zielona Góra
tel.+48 68 4755610

In the Aurora Hotel there is a possibility to book a double room with a discount after giving the code: “Social boundaries of work”. The code for the preferential price expires with the end of August and the number of rooms is limited, therefore we recommend to book as soon as possible.

– 2 double rooms – ca. 260 PLN/ 62 € (Comfort)
– 1 double room – ca. 242 PLN/ 58 € (Standard)

The offer of other hotels in Zielona Góra (without preferential prices for participants)

Zajazd Pocztowy Hotel (approximately 2,3 kilometres from conference venue)

Jedności 78-80
65-018 Zielona Góra

tel.: +48 68 324 70 06
fax.: +48 68 324 57 60

– Single room – 220 zł (ca. 53€)
– Double room – 280 zł (ca. 67€)
*breakfast included

– Single room – 160 zł (ca. 38€)
– Double room – 220 zł (ca. 53€)
* breakfast included

Senator Hotel (approximately 2,8 kilometres from conference venue)

Chopina 23a
65-018 Zielona Góra

tel.: +48 68 324 04 36
fax.: +48 68 324 79 10

Monday – Thursday*
– Single room – 180 zł (ca. 43€)
– Double room – 220 zł (ca. 53€)
* breakfast included

Friday – Sunday
– Single room – 130 zł (ca. 31€)
– Double room – 170 zł (ca. 41€)
* breakfast included


Conference fees – Conference message no.2

The conference message concerns the conference fees.

We kindly ask you to transfer conference fees before 15 September 2015. The amount to be paid is:

300 PLN (75 EUR) – for active participants with PhD degree and higher as well as participants from outside the Academia
200 PLN (50 EUR) – PhD students and students
100 PLN (25 EUR) – non-active participants

NAME: Polskie Towarzystwo Socjologiczne
STREET: ul. Nowy Świat 72
POSTCODE: 00- 330
IBAN: PL 75 1020 1156 0000 7802 0059 7252 konto PTS


(e.g. SGP2015_ Adam Mrozowicki)

We kindly ask you to send us a scanned version of the proof of payment to the conference email address:
Unfortunately, we cannot accept other forms of payment (e.g. credit cards).
Please also check if you have written on the registration form the address for the VAT bill (usually the address of your institution and in case your payment is not done by an institution, your private address). According to the Polish law, we are obliged to send all participants the VAT bills upon the payment (even if you do not need it for reimbursement).

We would like to ask all participants who did not write their address on the registration form to send us the forms again with the proper address till 13th of August 2015. We would also like to ask you to indicate the affiliation in case you have not done it so far.
A larger part of conference fee will be spent on organizational costs of the conference (catering, conference materials), so we kindly request from all to pay it.

The participation in single conference sessions is free as long as you do not present your paper and do not join others for catering services.

How to get to Zielona Góra

The conference will take place in the Institute of Sociology of the University of Zielona Góra in Poland. The exact venue will be confirmed soon.

The city of Zielona Góra has 150 000 inhabitants and is one of the two capital cities of Lubusz Voivodeship. Zielona Góra is accessible by plane (from Warsaw), car or train. Please click on the icons to find out more about the transportation possibilities.

If you have any questions regarding your arrival or departure, do not hesitate to contact us:

To find out more about Zielona Góra visit the website of the Centre of Turism.

Abstract submission deadline extended

The deadline for submissions has been extended to 15th June, 2015. Please send your abstracts and/or register using the registration form to the conference address: