The Post Socialist Labour Studies Group began life as the Transformation Studies Group based in Middlesex University Business School. The original objective of the group was to bring together a core of academics in the Business School who had an interest in sharing knowledge and experience of former Soviet Union and eastern bloc Socialist states. The group included not only academic staff but also a small group of PhD students studying transformation whose home base was in the region (e.g.Belarus, Moldova).
The prime area of interest was labour studies and industrial relations under transformation, but there also continues to exist a strong economics content, covering such issues as the influence of the international financial institutions and the impact of the accession states on the European Union.
The group met regularly over a period of two years, with individual members of the group (including PhD students) presenting their research work to other members of the group. This exchange of ideas led to a number of collaborations between members of the group to present at Conferences and to publish papers in refereed journal articles (see full list of publications below).
However, in late 2013 the group decided to hold its first public event, which was open to interested academics and others from outside the Group and from outside the University. The evening event, held on March 14th 2014 at Middlesex, discussed the emerging crisis in the Ukraine and was attended by 30 people. Three of the speakers at the event were members of the group, and the fourth (Dr. Gregory Schwartz) was from Bath University.
Following this successful event the group felt the need both to push outwards and to intensify academic outputs. A second seminar was held in April 2014 on the theme of ‘Beyond methodological nationalism: transnational perspectives on working class mobility in Europe‘ with contributions from Dr Barbara Samaluk, Greenwich Business School, and Devi Sacchetto, Sociology Senior Lecturer at Padua University.The aim of broadening outwards resulted in members of the group editing an E-special of Work, Employment and Society entitled ‘ The transformation of work and industrial relations in the post-Soviet bloc: 25 years after 1989’. This special issue of the journal contained an important overview of the key changes and issues for debate and research written by members of the group. The former aim led to a decision to change the name of the group to the Post Socialist Labour Studies Group and to convene a second event entitled ‘Post-Socialist Economies, Nationalistic Conflicts and Labour in Central-Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union’ which was held on May 29th 2015. This event was much broader in scope, was designed as a one day workshop, and included speakers, activists and practitioners from across the former Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia. The event received funding from Middlesex University, the Royal Economics Society, and the British Universities Industrial Relations Association and it is anticipated that a research network can be created leading top further funding applications for future seminars and research initiatives.
The group now has prepared the following plans to progress research and publications and to engage with practitioners and policy makers.
- To publish a book around the themes of nationalism, economics and labour in post-Soviet and post Socialist states. The core of the book will be papers from academics and transcripts from practitioners at our ‘Post-Socialist Economies, Nationalism and Labour’ event. We have received an offer to publish the book in the Politics and International Relations series by the publisher Rowman and Littlefield International.
- To continue to develop and expand the collaborative work of the Post Socialist Labour Studies Group at Middlesex University by convening further workshops and seminars, writing academic papers for conferences and journals, and encouraging applications for PhD study.
- To seek funding for further seminars and to build a research network again on the theme of ‘Post Socialist Economies, Nationalism and Labour’. We will explore funding opportunities from Leverhulme, ESRC and others.
- To engage with policy makers and practitioners in the field of the challenges facing international financial institutions and other western-based agencies in engaging fruitfully with countries of South East Europe (SEE) and the former Soviet Union (FSU). We have made initial contact with senior economists in the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to this end.