Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Goods and States: The Political Logic of State-Socialist Material Culture

  • Krisztina Fehérváry (a1)

In the two decades since the fall of state socialism, the widespread phenomenon of nostalgie in the former Soviet satellites has made clear that the everyday life of state socialism, contrary to stereotype, was experienced and is remembered in color. Nonetheless, popular accounts continue to depict the Soviet bloc as gray and colorless. As Paul Manning (2007) has argued, color becomes a powerful tool for legitimating not only capitalism, but democratic governance as well. An American journalist, for example, recently reflected on her own experience in the region over a number of decades:

It's hard to communicate how colorless and shockingly gray it was behind the Iron Curtain … the only color was the red of Communist banners. Stores had nothing to sell. There wasn't enough food… . Lines formed whenever something, anything, was for sale. The fatigue of daily life was all over their faces. Now… fur-clad women confidently stride across the winter ice in stiletto heels. Stores have sales… upscale cafés cater to cosmopolitan clients, and magazine stands, once so strictly controlled, rival those in the West. … Life before was so drab. Now the city seems loaded with possibilities (Freeman 2008).

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

J. Bach 2002. ‘The Taste Remains’: Consumption (N)ostalgia, and the Production of East Germany. Public Culture 14, 3: 545–56.

Z. Bauman . 1991. Living without an Alternative. The Political Quarterly 62, 1: 3544.

D. Berdahl . 1999b. ‘(N)Ostalgie’ for the Present: Memory, Longing, and East German Things. Ethnos 64, 2: 192211.

P. Betts 2000. The Twilight of the Idols: East German Memory and Material Culture. The Journal of Modern History 72: 731–65.

D. Boyer 2006. Ostalgie and the Politics of the Future in Eastern Germany. Public Culture 18, 2: 361–81.

V. Buchli 1997. Khrushchev, Modernism, and the Fight against Petit-bourgeois Consciousness. Journal of Design History 10, 2: 161–76.

M. Caldwell 2002. The Taste of Nationalism: Food Politics in Postsocialist Moscow. Ethnos 67, 3: 295319.

J. Carrier 1990. The Symbolism of Possession in Commodity Advertising. Man: Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 25: 693–75.

L. Chelcea 2002. The Culture of Shortage during State-Socialism: Consumption Practices in a Romanian Village in the 1980s. Cultural Studies 16, 1: 1643.

J. Comaroff and J. L. Comaroff . 1997. Of Revelation and Revolution: The Dialectics of Modernity on a South African Frontier. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

T. Dessewffy 2002. Speculators and Travelers: The Political Construction of the Tourist in the Kádár Regime. Cultural Studies 16, 1: 4462.

E. Dunn 2008. Postsocialist Spores: Disease, Bodies and the State in the Republic of Georgia. American Ethnologist 35, 2: 243–58.

K. Fehérváry 2002. American Kitchens, Luxury Bathrooms and the Search for a ‘Normal’ Life in Post-Socialist Hungary. Ethnos 67, 3: 369400.

R. Foster 2005. Commodity Futures: Labor, Love and Value. Anthropology Today 21, 4: 812.

F. Hammer 2002. A Gasoline Scented Sinbad: The Truck-driver as Popular Hero in Socialist Hungary. Cultural Studies 16, 1: 80126.

P. Hanson 1974. Advertising and Socialism: The Nature and Extent of Consumer Advertising in the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary and Yugoslavia. London: Macmillan.

W. Keane 2003. Semiotics and the Social Analysis of Material Things. Language and Communication 23: 409–25.

I. Kopytoff 1986. The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Cultural Progress. In, A. Appadurai , ed., The Social Life of Things. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

J. Kornai 1992. The Socialist System: The Political Economy of Communism. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

A. Lemon 1998. “Your Eyes are Green Like Dollars”: Counterfeit Cash, National Substance, and Currency Apartheid in 1990s Russia. Cultural Anthropology 13, 1: 2255.

J. Livingston 1998. Modern Subjectivity and Consumer Culture. In, S. Strasser C. McGovern , and M. Judt , eds., Getting and Spending: European and American Consumer Societies in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

P. Manning 2007. Rose-Colored Glasses? Color Revolutions and Cartoon Chaos in Postsocialist Georgia. Cultural Anthropology 22, 2: 171213.

I. Merkel 1998. Consumer Culture in the GDR, or How the Struggle for Antimodernity Was Lost on the Battleground of Consumer Culture. In, S. Strasser C. McGovern , and M. Judt , eds., Getting and Spending: European and American Consumer Societies in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

D. Miller , ed. 2005. Materiality. Durham: Duke University Press

R. Moore 2003. From Genericide to Viral Marketing: On ‘Brand.’ Language and Communication 23: 331–57.

J. Patico 2005. To Be Happy in a Mercedes: Tropes of Value and Ambivalent Visions of Marketization. American Ethnologist 32: 479–96.

J. Schneider 1994. In and Out of Polyester. Anthropology Today 10, 4: 210.

R. Stade 1993. Designs of Identity: Politics of Aesthetics in the GDR. Ethnos 58, 3–4: 241–58.

M. Veenis 1999. Consumption in East Germany: The Seduction and Betrayal of Things. The Journal of Material Culture 4, 1: 79112.

K. Verdery 1991. Theorizing Socialism. American Ethnologist 18, 3: 419–39.

A. Weiner 1985. Inalienable Wealth. American Ethnologist 12, 2: 210–27.

A. Wessely 2002. Travelling People, Travelling Objects. Cultural Studies 16, 1: 315.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 5
Total number of PDF views: 61 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 196 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 26th July 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.