In “Class After Communism” — a recently published special issue of East European Politics and Societies — the selections made by guest editor David Ost, the 2010-2015 Joseph DiGangi Professor of Political Science, explore the different incarnations of class discourse and analysis during the communist period, and the implications of their disappearance after the fall of state socialism in 1989.
Ost developed the idea for the special issue, solicited the authors, worked extensively to revise their papers, and wrote the introduction as well as one of the chapters.
“As a whole, the papers seek to test (and largely confirm) the hypothesis that the disappearance of class analysis led to the rise of individualist, neoliberal understandings of society, which have exacerbated the problem of inequality by depriving these societies of the conceptual tools to combat it,” Ost says. “Class was widely rejected after 1989 because it seemed to be a category of the old regime, even though in fact it was always better attuned to understanding postcommunist capitalism than it ever was for state socialism. Today, many years later, with capitalism now normal and a new generation taking it for granted, class analysis is beginning to return, but not yet strong enough to challenge the still-dominant neoliberal consensus.”
Ost, who is frequently a visiting professor in Eastern Europe, has written widely on Eastern European politics and society, with a focus on political economy, democratization, capitalism and labor. He is the author of several books on communist and postcommunist society, including “The Defeat of Solidarity: Anger and Politics in Postcommunist Society,” which received the Ed A. Hewett Book Prize for Best Book in Political Economy, and which, after being published in Polish translation in 2007, has played a significant role in Polish political debates. His essays have been published in a number of scholarly and popular journals, such as Politics and Society, European Journal of Social Theory, Theory and Society, East European Politics and Society, European Journal of Industrial Relations, The Nation, Dissent, Telos, and Tikkun. Ost currently serves on the editorial boards of Politics and Society, East European Politics and Societies, Polish Sociological Review, and Studie Socjologiczne. In 2005, he received from former Polish President Lech Walesa a special medal issued for the 25th Anniversary of Solidarity.