The Critical Classroom – “Labour’s Spatial Fix: State Socialist Hungary in the 1970s”

Márton Czirfusz, Periféria Policy and Research Center / Centre for Economic and Regional Studies, Budapest, Hungary

The article “Labour’s Spatial Fix: State Socialist Hungary in the 1970s” engages with labour relations in 1970s Hungary. Based on a historical statistical analysis, I aim to apply the concept of “labour’s spatial fix” to state socialist Hungary and to show how Hungarian households combined various strategies to secure their social reproduction in different regions of the country. The paper differentiates between three dimensions of labour’s spatial fix in social reproduction: wage work (with particular attention given to female employment); income from the “second economy”; and housing.

The article is best suited to a postgraduate level course. The paper could be used in different pedagogical approaches in different course syllabi:

[1] As the article builds theoretically on the concept of “labour’s spatial fix”, it might accompany Andrew Herod’s (1997) now classic Antipode paper, which introduced the concept and launched the labour geography project as we know today. More broadly, the paper can be used to illustrate wider debates on the spatial fix (see also Natalia Buier’s entry in the Critical Classroom series).

[2] During the conceptualization of the paper, I drew on Costis Hadjimichalis and Dina Vaiou’s (1987) paper on uneven development in Greece. As the two papers deal approximately with the same period (the effects of the 1970s crisis), and deploy similar methodologies, reading them together might offer a nuanced understanding of uneven geographical development in the peripheries of Europe.

[3] Comparing socialist and post-socialist workers’ livelihoods in Eastern Europe is another option for incorporating the paper into radical geographiacal teaching. From Antipode’s archive, the paper by Adrian Smith, Alison Stenning, Alena Rochovská and Dariusz Świa̧tek (2008) on the working poor in Eastern Europe could be a good choice for initiating a discussion on the continuities and discontinuities of labour’s agency in and beyond wage work in this region of the world.

[4] For diving deeper into the Hungarian state socialist context, and especially what the “second economy” means in securing livelihoods, two papers might accompany a discussion of mine in a critical classroom. József Böröcz’s (2000) article is a more systematic sociological analysis on informality (based largely on the Hungarian context of both state socialism and post-state socialism), whereas Martha Lampland’s (1991) anthropological account sheds light on the Hungarian second economy and morals about labour during state socialism.

Suggested resources

Böröcz J (2000) Informality rules. East European Politics and Societies 14(2):348-380

Hadjimichalis C and Vaiou D (1987) Changing patterns of uneven regional development and forms of social reproduction in Greece. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 5(3):319-333

Herod A (1997) From a geography of labor to a labor geography: Labor’s spatial fix and the geography of capitalism. Antipode 29(1):1-31

Lampland M (1991) Pigs, party secretaries, and private lives in Hungary. American Ethnologist 18(3):459-479

Smith A, Stenning A, Rochovská A and Świa̧tek D (2008) The emergence of a working poor: Labour markets, neoliberalisation, and diverse economies in post-socialist cities. Antipode 40(2):283-311


Photo sources: FortepanTamás Urbán; Katalin Erdei; and VÁTI (CC BY-SA 3.0)