On the Road to Modernity: Textile Workers and Post-socialist Transformations in Slovenia



This article explores how processes of transformation since 1989 have affected textile workers' lives in Slovenia. I am concerned with the way in which the changes in politics and society as well as people's changed reference frames have served to redefine textile workers' perceptions of the socialist past and their current understanding of both working and broader living environments. The legacies of socialism are presented within the framework of various interpretations and perceptions of post-socialist modernity. I illustrate my points by quoting a number of interviews made with workers, retired workers and other factory staff in the first years of this decade. The article does not intend to reconstruct the socialist past, but to explore the intertwinements between the past and post-socialist present while highlighting textile workers' perspectives and experiences. With their focus on the level of everyday practices, fieldwork and oral history can help us to recognize that changes in post-socialism are not simple and unidirectional. Following such analytical orientations the article addresses macro and micro levels to reveal the various ways in which people contest or contradict, follow or oppose institutional changes. The idea is not only to add people and a case study to the larger story but to question the story itself and its one-sidedness that tells us about ‘successful transition’ by giving out numbers, percentages and political categorizations. The aim is to point at the inequalities such discourses produce, the power relations in which they are located and the lived realities that are hidden behind them.