Politics in Color and Concrete

Politics in Color and Concrete

Socialist Materialities and the Middle Class in Hungary
Fehérváry, Krisztina
Distribution: World
Publication date: 09/16/2013
Format: Paperback 44 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-00994-4
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Description

Winner, 2014 William E. Douglass Prize in Europeanist AnthropologyHonorable Mention, Davis Center Book Prize in Political and Social StudiesHungarian Studies Association Best Book Prize Honorable Mention, 2016 Laura Shannon Prize

Material culture in Eastern Europe under state socialism is remembered as uniformly gray, shabby, and monotonous—the worst of postwar modernist architecture and design. Politics in Color and Concrete revisits this history by exploring domestic space in Hungary from the 1950s through the 1990s and reconstructs the multi-textured and politicized aesthetics of daily life through the objects, spaces, and colors that made up this lived environment. Krisztina Féherváry shows that contemporary standards of living and ideas about normalcy have roots in late socialist consumer culture and are not merely products of postsocialist transitions or neoliberalism. This engaging study decenters conventional perspectives on consumer capitalism, home ownership, and citizenship in the new Europe.

Author Bio

Krisztina Fehérváry is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan.

Reviews

[A]n absorbing account of everyday life and embodied aesthetics in socialist and post-socialist Eastern Europe. In it we learn how collections of things and people, structured in relation to each other by deeply-rooted historical forms of class consciousness, served the self-fashioning aims of Hungarians from 1950 to the late 1990s. This cultural history of style and consumption reveals much that is occluded in other studies of socialism and post-socialism: bodies, materialities, spaces, habitual orientations, commodity desires, lived historical dispositions, and diverse, sometimes clashing temporalities. Politics in Color and Concrete explains why the everyday is important, and shows why domestic aesthetics embody a crucially significant politics.After 1989, we often heard that consumption failures caused communism’s collapse; Fehérváry’s brilliant analysis explains why this is both right and wrong. Instead of the stereotypical socialism of long queues and shoddy goods, she presents a Hungarian Communist Party that actively created demanding consumers, who insisted that it meet its own standards. This is a major reinterpretation of Soviet-style socialism and an innovative model for analyzing consumption.The topic is extremely timely and relevant; the writing is lucid and thorough; the theory is complex and sophisticated without being overly dense, or daunting. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Qualities of Color and Concrete
1. Normal Life in the Former Socialist City
2. Socialist Realism in the Socialist City
3. Socialist Modern and the Production of Demanding Citizens
4. Socialist Generic and the Branding of the State
5. Organicist Modern and Super-Natural Organicism
6. Unstable Landscapes of Property, Morality and Status
7. The New Family House and the New Middle Class
Epilogue
Conclusion: Heterotopias of the Normal in Private Worlds

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