Disembedding the Company from Kinship: Unethical Families and Atomized Labor in an Estonian Mine

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Eeva Kesküla


Kinship, Codes of Ethics, Labor Collective, Embeddedness of Economy, Labor Atomization, Third-Wave Marketization


This article looks at the dynamics of the relationship between the company and the family in an Estonian mining town. In the Soviet period, the “double movement” of the second wave of marketization ensured that the family continued to be embedded in the workplace. The mining company served as a total social institution for miners and their families, a center of their economic and emotional life. The current third wave of marketization, together with a particular corporate ethic, is creating a separation of the family and the workplace. This is expressed in the gradual withdrawal of the company from the reproductive sphere of miners’ families and the transformation of moralities related to work and kinship. The discourse of increasing transparency and decreasing nepotism has resulted in a simultaneous alienation and recommodification of labor, reinforcing power hierarchies and fragmenting the labor force. Furthermore, this disembedding can be seen as an indicator of increased freedom for capital, as the obligations for welfare and reproduction have been pushed back to the sphere of the family. In English, extended summary in Russian.

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