PhD thesis on Polish workers – combining grounded theory methodology and biographical method

Categories: Qualitative


Dear All,

since I am new in the Methodspace, I would like to briefly present myself before I move to the topic of this post. I am Adam Mrozowicki. I have just defended my PhD thesis on ‘Coping with social change. Life strategies of workers in Poland after the end of state socialism’, at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. I am a sociologist, and – as my family name might indicate 🙂 – I am Polish.

In my PhD thesis, I combined grounded theory methodology and biographical method (Schuetze’s variant of biographical narrative interview technique) to study the problems of working-class agency and subjectivity in the situation of radical transition to capitalism in Poland.

Summary of the thesis can be found on:

(please scroll down below Dutch summary for English one)

I would be interested in all discussions concerning the role and the place of theory in qualitative data analysis, the relevance of abduction in ‘generating theory from the data’, as well as the application of critical realist perspective in empirical research.

Even though I might have limited time in the nearest days to post and reply to emails – due to my transition to Poland after some years of living in Belgium – I am looking forward to further exchange of thoughts and ideas!

And for those interested in more general description of my PhD work – please have a look at the short summary below.

All the best wishes,

‘Coping with social change. Life strategies of workers in Poland after the end of state socialism’

The concerns of the people, whose experiences were studied in this book, rarely make it through to the academic discourse and political praxis in Central and Eastern Europe. In the public discourse and many sociological accounts, manual workers tend to be represented as the passive recipients of structural constraints, liberal ideologies, and cultural beliefs acquired in the state socialist reality.

But how far this one-dimensional understanding is able to explain the diversity of the actual ways of coping with social change adopted by workers after the end of state socialism? In order to address this question, this book turns to workers themselves, to their life strategies and biographical experiences. It reconstructs the processes of adapting to and of resisting structural changes in working-class milieux in one of the industrial regions of Poland (Silesia).

On the basis of an in-depth analysis of 166 biographical interviews with blue-collar workers, some more general conclusions are formulated. Workers, with whom we talked in Silesia, rarely resembled the passive puppets of historical forces. It was their ability to reflect upon their life, upon their deeply-ingrained ethos and upon their social circumstances, which was the foundation of their – often inconsistent and hybrid – efforts to overcome socially imposed limitations in the new capitalist reality. Emphasising the potential of agency among Polish workers, this book might attract attention not only of those interested in post-socialism, working class and sociological theory, but also of everybody inclined to think critically about the recent history of Central and Eastern Europe.