Identity and Work Ethic of Peasants in the Context of the Post-Soviet Socio-economic Transformation
The chapter analyzes transformations of identity and work ethic among rural habitants through the lens of moral emotions based on the empirical data – thirty semi-structured interviews were collected in several villages of the agricultural region of Russia. We present the following logic of transformations: changed socio-cultural conditions, including public sentiment toward agricultural labor, lead to the transformation of identity of peasantry. Shifts in self-identification cause changes in labor attitudes and strategies, and new attitudes are ingrained in the work ethic of Russian peasantry. The decision to concentrate on emotions emerged in the aftermath of a more general study of the social and structural conditions in the Russian countryside, which resulted in interviews abounding with villagers’ representations of negative emotions. Building on the existing body of work on the psychology and sociology of emotions (focused on studies of shame and envy), the authors have identified new demonstrations of emotion arising from new socio-cultural conditions in the Russian village. This is achieved through an analysis of the verbal markers employed in moral emotions. The authors outline the phenomenon of “contempt for rural/physical labor” from both the immediate surrounding environment and wider society more generally. This emotional backdrop brings with it negative effects such as shame and envy that, in turn, corrode self-esteem and self-efficacy among the rural population, leading even to withdrawal from active employment on the land and the weakening of social ties. As a result, the rural ethical views work as a thing needed purely in order to meet one’s basic needs, a position that weakens any aspirations toward economic success and simultaneously promotes a sense of endurance and suffering among the rural population who are forced by ‘necessity’ to do such hard and ‘dirty’ work.