From the Cult of Waste to the Trash Heap of History

From the Cult of Waste to the Trash Heap of History

The Politics of Waste in Socialist and Postsocialist Hungary
Zsuzsa Gille
Distribution: World
Publication date: 3/13/2007
ISBN: 978-0-253-11692-5
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Honorable Mention, 2008 AAASS Davis Center Prize
Zsuzsa Gille combines social history, cultural analysis, and environmental sociology to advance a long overdue social theory of waste in this study of waste management, Hungarian state socialism, and post–Cold War capitalism. From 1948 to the end of the Soviet period, Hungary developed a cult of waste that valued reuse and recycling. With privatization the old environmentally beneficial, though not flawless, waste regime was eliminated, and dumping and waste incineration were again promoted. Gille’s analysis focuses on the struggle between a Budapest-based chemical company and the small rural village that became its toxic dump site.

Author Bio

Zsuzsa Gille grew up in socialist Hungary and was active in semi-legal environmental and peace movements. She is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


"This is a good book, with a masterful balance of common sense and sophisticated social analysis that does not let relevance be defined by academic discourse only." —Judit Bodnar, American Journal of Sociology , May 2008

"Gille's book is a fascinating analysis of environmental policies and the politics of waste, as well a study of socialism through its relationships with what is usually considered as a byproduct of production and/or consumption." —Barbara Potrata, Leeds Institute of Health Studies, Year XV.2 2009

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Table of Contents


1. Was State Socialism Wasteful?
2. Toward a Social Theory of Waste

Part 1. Discipline and Recycle (1948—1974)
3. Metallic Socialism
4. The Primitive Accumulation of Waste in Metallic Socialism

Part 2. Reform and Reduce (1975—1984)
5. The Efficiency Model
6. The Limits of Efficiency

Part 3. Privatize and Incinerate (1985—present)
7. The Chemical Model
8. "Building a Castle out of Shit": The Wastelands of the New Europe

9. Conclusion

Sources and References