The topic of this book are social relationships in paid domestic and care work. Domestic work and also its delegated forms (to servants, domestic workers, institutionalized) are an intrinsic part of social history across time and space. As a social institution with rich and dense history, the today’s forms of domestic contracts bear sometimes problematic echoes of the past inequalities. The book is based on the Author’s sociological research on paid domestic work that stretches over 10 years, and includes a study of Polish migrants in Italy, employers and domestic workers (the Poles and the Ukrainians) in postwar Poland, and a review of history of servanthood. The Author has also included numerous references to statistical data, historical evidence, as well as films, belles lettres, and anecdotal evidence. The main research project behind the book was entitled Domestic service/ants: Changing asymmetrical social relations, and was conducted in Poland between 2007 and 2011. The project concerned the employment of care and household workers in post- -WWII Poland (between 1945 and 2011). Interviews were conducted with 58 individuals associated with the world of domestic services: employers, domestic workers and agents in the Warsaw area. The Author interviewed 37 employers of different social backgrounds, age and gender, and 21 workers, in seven cases achieving a double perspective. Employers were defined as persons who employed or are currently employing domestic workers, as well as those who come from families that employed servants/domestic workers and were able to reconstruct a narrative of their past relations with the domestic worker based on family stories. Out of 37 employers, 22 employed a nanny/housekeeper, four had an experience of employing a caretaker for an elderly person, and 24 had an experience of employing a cleaner. Out of the abovementioned 37 employers, 22 had a family history of employing domestic workers, and 15 did not. Seven of the respondents were male, and 30 were female. Three out of the employers were born in the 1920s, one person in the 1930s, three in the 1940s, 11 in the 1950s, six in the 1960s, 12 in the 1970s and one person in the 1980s. Out of 21 domestic workers, 14 were Polish and seven were Ukrainian. The workers interviewed performed various types of housework and care work, sometimes changing the type of work performed in the course of their careers; they were women of different ages and educational status. What is special about domestic work in Poland is that as a post-socialist state it experienced an exorcism of social inequalities’ relics, embodied i.a. in servants. However, as the Author explains, the paid domestic work thrived in a limited form during the socialist era, as well as flourishes now, in the capitalist polarized society of post 1989. The class gap is a part of social sub-consciousness, rather than spelled out, and paid domestic contract continues to pose difficulties in how to define a domestic worker. Paid domestic work turns out to be a sociological puzzle to be solved in everyday life. Is the domestic worker just an employee? A guest? Or maybe “part of the family”? A friend, perhaps? A little bit of each of the above mentioned roles? The book includes chapters with critical literature review, description of methods in the presented study, offers an introduction into sociology of domestic work. It presents the historical background of post war domestic work in Poland (with references to prewar and war times), and formulates a perspective on domestic work as a social riddle as far as two basic dimensions are concerned: distance – closeness and hierarchy – equality. This book offers an approach to the history of paid domestic work that identifies three phases of relationships with domestic workers embedded in different types of social orders: pre-modern, modern and postmodern. The pre-modern phase, until about the 18th century in Europe, was about universal presence, obviousness and diversity of servants in social life. The modern era (19th and 20th century) meant questioning, simplifying, reducing, and (postulated) vanishing of servants from the social landscape. In postmodern times, the domestic workers are regaining popularity and diversity, embedded in new social inequalities. In present day’s relationships with domestic workers, we can track down elements of every social order. This framework is applied throughout the book to the present day reality of domestic work in Poland, and analyses diverse discourses constructed by social actors as manifestations of different social orders. Family, moral and servanthood discourses that pertain to paid domestic work are presented as implicit references to the pre-modern social order. Employment frame, competence discourse, and professional distance are brought forward as manifestations of the modern social order. Postmodern social order manifests itself through friendship discourse, service work (instead of employment) frame and a particular discourse of biographical superiority that attributes outcomes of social inequalities to individual factors. The book is about relationships in paid domestic work, but offers an insight into transformations of social relationships in contemporary Poland in general.

(U)sługi domowe. Przemiany relacji społecznych w płatnej pracy domowej [Domestic service/servants. Transformations of social relationships in paid household work]

Rosinska, Anna
Writing – Original Draft Preparation
2016

Abstract

The topic of this book are social relationships in paid domestic and care work. Domestic work and also its delegated forms (to servants, domestic workers, institutionalized) are an intrinsic part of social history across time and space. As a social institution with rich and dense history, the today’s forms of domestic contracts bear sometimes problematic echoes of the past inequalities. The book is based on the Author’s sociological research on paid domestic work that stretches over 10 years, and includes a study of Polish migrants in Italy, employers and domestic workers (the Poles and the Ukrainians) in postwar Poland, and a review of history of servanthood. The Author has also included numerous references to statistical data, historical evidence, as well as films, belles lettres, and anecdotal evidence. The main research project behind the book was entitled Domestic service/ants: Changing asymmetrical social relations, and was conducted in Poland between 2007 and 2011. The project concerned the employment of care and household workers in post- -WWII Poland (between 1945 and 2011). Interviews were conducted with 58 individuals associated with the world of domestic services: employers, domestic workers and agents in the Warsaw area. The Author interviewed 37 employers of different social backgrounds, age and gender, and 21 workers, in seven cases achieving a double perspective. Employers were defined as persons who employed or are currently employing domestic workers, as well as those who come from families that employed servants/domestic workers and were able to reconstruct a narrative of their past relations with the domestic worker based on family stories. Out of 37 employers, 22 employed a nanny/housekeeper, four had an experience of employing a caretaker for an elderly person, and 24 had an experience of employing a cleaner. Out of the abovementioned 37 employers, 22 had a family history of employing domestic workers, and 15 did not. Seven of the respondents were male, and 30 were female. Three out of the employers were born in the 1920s, one person in the 1930s, three in the 1940s, 11 in the 1950s, six in the 1960s, 12 in the 1970s and one person in the 1980s. Out of 21 domestic workers, 14 were Polish and seven were Ukrainian. The workers interviewed performed various types of housework and care work, sometimes changing the type of work performed in the course of their careers; they were women of different ages and educational status. What is special about domestic work in Poland is that as a post-socialist state it experienced an exorcism of social inequalities’ relics, embodied i.a. in servants. However, as the Author explains, the paid domestic work thrived in a limited form during the socialist era, as well as flourishes now, in the capitalist polarized society of post 1989. The class gap is a part of social sub-consciousness, rather than spelled out, and paid domestic contract continues to pose difficulties in how to define a domestic worker. Paid domestic work turns out to be a sociological puzzle to be solved in everyday life. Is the domestic worker just an employee? A guest? Or maybe “part of the family”? A friend, perhaps? A little bit of each of the above mentioned roles? The book includes chapters with critical literature review, description of methods in the presented study, offers an introduction into sociology of domestic work. It presents the historical background of post war domestic work in Poland (with references to prewar and war times), and formulates a perspective on domestic work as a social riddle as far as two basic dimensions are concerned: distance – closeness and hierarchy – equality. This book offers an approach to the history of paid domestic work that identifies three phases of relationships with domestic workers embedded in different types of social orders: pre-modern, modern and postmodern. The pre-modern phase, until about the 18th century in Europe, was about universal presence, obviousness and diversity of servants in social life. The modern era (19th and 20th century) meant questioning, simplifying, reducing, and (postulated) vanishing of servants from the social landscape. In postmodern times, the domestic workers are regaining popularity and diversity, embedded in new social inequalities. In present day’s relationships with domestic workers, we can track down elements of every social order. This framework is applied throughout the book to the present day reality of domestic work in Poland, and analyses diverse discourses constructed by social actors as manifestations of different social orders. Family, moral and servanthood discourses that pertain to paid domestic work are presented as implicit references to the pre-modern social order. Employment frame, competence discourse, and professional distance are brought forward as manifestations of the modern social order. Postmodern social order manifests itself through friendship discourse, service work (instead of employment) frame and a particular discourse of biographical superiority that attributes outcomes of social inequalities to individual factors. The book is about relationships in paid domestic work, but offers an insight into transformations of social relationships in contemporary Poland in general.
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