Book Presentation and Discussion: Deserved. Economic Memories After the Fall of the Iron Curtain

Event time: 27.11.23, 18:00-19:30 / on site
Venue: Aula am Campus, Spitalgasse 2, Hof 1.17, 1090 Vienna

Philipp Ther and Misha Glenny will comment on Till Hilmar's new book. Listen also to our Transformative Podcast "Episode 39: Economic Memories of Transformation".

After the fall of the Iron Curtain, people across the former socialist world saw their lives transformed. In just a few years, labor markets were completely disrupted, and the meanings attached to work were drastically altered. How did people who found themselves living under state socialism one day and capitalist democracy the next adjust to the changing social order and its new system of values?

Till Hilmar examines memories of the postsocialist transition in East Germany and the Czech Republic to offer new insights into the power of narratives about economic change. Despite the structural nature of economic shifts, people often interpret life outcomes in individual terms. Many are deeply attached to the belief that success and failure must be deserved. Emphasizing individual effort, responsibility, and character, they pass moral judgments based on a person’s fortunes in the job market. Hilmar argues that such frameworks represent ways of making sense of the profound economic and social dislocations after 1989. People craft narratives of deservingness about themselves and others to solve the problem of belonging in a new social order.

Drawing on in-depth interviews with engineers and care workers as well as historical and comparative analysis of the breakdown of communism in Eastern Europe, Deserved sheds new light on the moral imagination of capitalism and the experience of economic change. This book also offers crucial perspective on present-day politics, showing how notions of deservingness and moral worth have propelled right-wing populism.

Till Hilmar is a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Vienna’s Department of Sociology. He is the author of Deserved. Economic Memories after the Fall of the Iron Curtain, which was recently published by Columbia University Press. He received his PhD from Yale University in 2019. His research has been published in numerous outlets, including the European Journal of SociologyEast European Politics and Societies, and the Journal of Contemporary European Studies.

Misha Glenny is an award-winning journalist, author and public intellectual. He assumed the role of IWM Rector in May 2022. He covered the 1989 revolutions and wars in the former Yugoslavia for The Guardian and was the BBC’s Central Europe Correspondent. In 1993, he received the Sony Gold Award for Outstanding Contribution to Broadcasting, and in 2012 he was named BT Information Security Journalist of The Year. His publications have been met with considerable international acclaim, including his account of Yugoslavia's descent into civil war. Glenny is also a regular contributor to major publications in Europe, North America and Japan. 

Philipp Ther is Professor of Central European History at the University of Vienna, where he also founded the Research Center for the History of Transformations (RECET). Five of his monographs have been published in English: Europe since 1989: A history (Princeton UP; the German original was awarded the non-fiction book prize of the Leipzig Bookfare); The Dark Side of Nation States: Ethnic Cleansing in Modern Europe (Berghahn Press), Center Stage: Operatic Culture and Nation Building in 19th Century Central Europe (Purdue UP); The Outsiders: Refugees in Europe since 1492 (Princeton UP); How the West Lost the Peace. The Great Transformation since 1989 (Polity Press). In 2019 he was awarded the Wittgenstein Prize by the Austrian Research Fund, the highest recognition for scientists in Austria.

This event is organized in cooperation with the University of Vienna's Department of Sociology.