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International Max Planck Research School
on the Social and Political Constitution of the Economy


Marcin Serafin

The Temporal Structures of the Economy: The Working Day of Taxi Drivers in Warsaw

Studies on the Social and Political Constitution of the Economy. IMPRS-SPCE, Cologne 2016.
 
Abstract
 
Why do taxi drivers work when they work? Unlike those in many other occupations, taxi drivers do not have fixed working hours. This raises the question of what influences their working time. Based on a combination of qualitative and quantitative research conducted in Warsaw between November 2012 and June 2013, this dissertation argues that the working time of Warsaw taxi drivers is anchored in four "temporal structures": earning time, waiting time, political time and domestic time. First, taxi drivers' working time is dependent on the demand for their service, which structures their earning time. I argue that, since taxi drivers are coordinating agencies, their earning time is dependent on multiple superior coordination agencies that make up the multi-layered temporal architecture of Warsaw. Such agencies include the religious calendar and the state calendar. Second, taxi drivers' working time is shaped by a temporal structure of waiting time. I trace the origin of this structure, showing how waiting time is linked to the emergence of capitalism in Poland in 1989. However, while the introduction of capitalism created the structural conditions for waiting time, I argue that waiting time is reproduced every day as taxi drivers have to cope with the uncertainty of demand for their service. Third, taxi drivers' working time is anchored in political time since they try collectively to improve their working conditions through voice. I distinguish between different forms of voice, showing how and why the political actions of taxi drivers have been largely unsuccessful. Finally, taxi drivers work when they work because of a temporal structure of domestic time. Taxi drivers' working time is shaped by the temporal order of their family life, which is often in conflict with the rhythm of the market. I describe how the gendered nature of domestic time, characterized by an unequal division of household labour, enables male taxi drivers to work long hours. By providing an explanation for taxi drivers' working time, which highlights the temporal dimension of social life, this dissertation shows the need for economic sociology to study the impact of time on economic practices.
 
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