Politics of waiting

Workfare, post-Soviet austerity and the ethics of freedom

By Liene Ozolina

Politics of waiting


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-2625-2
  • Pages: 160
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: April 2019
  • BIC Category: Politics, Welfare & benefit systems, Sociology: work & labour, Social & cultural anthropology, Latvia, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Comparative Politics, Latvia, Society & social sciences / Comparative politics, Society & social sciences / Social & cultural anthropology, ethnography, HISTORY / Europe / Eastern, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General
  • Series: Political Ethnography


This book is an ethnography of politics of waiting. While the global political economy is usually imagined through metaphors of acceleration and speed, this book reveals waiting as the shadow temporality of the contemporary logics of governance. The ethnographic site for this analysis is a state-run unemployment office in Latvia, serving as a vantage point from which to observe how welfare programmes use acceleration and waiting as forms of control as well as to compare Western and post-Soviet welfare policy designs. The book is therefore a timely sociological critique of the forms of statecraft that have emerged in the aftermath of neoliberalism.

The key audiences for this book are students and scholars of sociology, anthropology, social policy, and social and political theory, as well as policymakers and activists with an interest in welfare reforms and comparisons between Western and post-Soviet welfare designs.


'After some decades of optimistic efforts at being a part of a larger European community promising freedom and prosperity, Latvians faced severe austerity measures after the financial crisis of 2008. They were asked to "swallow a toad" as the local lore had it. In this sensitive and perceptive ethnography, Liene Ozolina uses the mundane, and often absurd, practices of training and motivation programs for the unemployed to explore how ordinary Latvians interpret their own selves, history and future. Set against the standard critiques of the effects of neoliberal austerity, Ozolina demonstrates how decades of Soviet life profoundly shape Latvian ideas of their capacity for "waiting" as much as their spirited and dogged embrace of the ideals of responsibility and individual freedom. Written with clarity, empathy and great insight, this work demonstrates the power of good ethnography in understanding the rich vernacular life of global ideas of freedom, the "good life" and dignity.'

Thomas Blom Hansen, Professor of Anthropology, Stanford University, author of Melancholia of Freedom: Social Life in an Indian Township in South Africa

'An important contribution to contemporary discussions about the temporality of what is made politically invisible, forms of social control, and the state's role in organising our experience of time. ...The volume serves to push forward something akin to "waiting studies", opening new research agendas for further study and making clear the significance of this practice.'

Francisco Martínez, Anthropological Journal of European Cultures


1 Waiting as an organising logic
2 Temporalities of austerity
3 The anxious subject
4 The will to live
5 Spaces of the expelled
Epilogue: Waiting for freedom


Liene Ozolina is Course Tutor in Political Sociology at the London School of Economics

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