Chapter

“Knife in the Water”

Kacper Pobłocki

in Communism Unwrapped

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199827657
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199950461 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199827657.003.0003
“Knife in the Water”

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This chapter focuses on urban change, and the social tensions it triggered, in the Polish city of Łódź. Kacper Pobłocki embeds the discussion in the feature film, Knife in Water, by Roman Polanski, casting it against the urban realities of 1960s socialist Łódź. Urban collective consumption lay at the very heart of an emergent postwar Eastern Europe, and in the case of Łódź, Poland’s famous textile center, water was central to social conflict. Pobłocki links public grievances over social mobility with concurrent displays of conspicuous consumption (particularly centered on private leisure) as well as the overconsumption of urban (and “public”) amenities such as water. In Poland, he argues, the struggles over urban space and collective consumption led to the dramatic events of 1968, and left an indelible mark on contemporary Polish society. Poland’s trajectory, in fact, should be understood as a different version of the same “urban Keynesianism” emerging on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Ultimately, Pobłocki concludes, there are reasons to see the events of 1968 East and West as related: in both cases, the “urban crisis” of the 1960s was a clash between conflicting visions of what constituted meaningful urban life.

Keywords: urban studies; Lodz; the right to the city; socialism; collective consumption; Poland; film studies; working-class history; automobile; 1968 protests; suburbanization

Chapter.  7924 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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