´My life has mostly been spent working´: Notions and patterns of work in socialist Bulgaria


  • Daniela Koleva Faculty of Philosophy, St. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia


socialism, work, life stories


The article is an attempt to look at socialism as a cultural code rather than a political system. Different notions of work and symbolic hierarchies of work are examined: the ones spread by the official ideology of communism and the unofficial ones shared by elderly informants in their life stories. A major part of the text is focused on miners’ work as a symbol of ‘socialist labour’, emblematic of its nature, goals and organisation. The official media discourse and imagery of the first two decades of the communist regime are then counterbalanced by the story of a miner about his work life to find out how the everyday perceptions of that vocation by its practitioners related to its official propaganda representations. The last part of the text expands on the everyday notions of work expressed in the life stories – the ‘traditional’ one and the ‘modern work ethic’. It is argued that they can be related to generational, occupational and other aspects of the social position of the
narrators rather than to the ideological imaginary of communism.