The Socialist Good Life

The Socialist Good Life

Desire, Development, and Standards of Living in Eastern Europe
Edited by Cristofer Scarboro, Diana Mincyte and Zsuzsa Gille
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 06/02/2020
Format: Hardback 7 b&w illus., 1 table
ISBN: 978-0-253-04776-2
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What does the good life mean in a "backward" place?

As communist regimes denigrated widespread unemployment and consumer excess in Western countries, socialist Eastern European states simultaneously legitimized their power through their apparent ability to satisfy consumers' needs. Moving beyond binaries of production and consumption, the essays collected here examine the lessons consumption studies can offer about ethnic and national identity and the role of economic expertise in shaping consumer behavior. From Polish VCRs to Ukrainian fashion boutiques, tropical fruits in the GDR to cinemas in Belgrade, The Socialist Good Life explores what consumption means in a worker state where communist ideology emphasizes collective needs over individual pleasures.

Author Bio

Cristofer Scarboro is Professor of History at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He is author of The Late Socialist Good Life in Bulgaria: Living and Meaning in a Permanent Present Tense.

Diana Mincytė is Associate Professor of Sociology at the City University of New York–New York City College of Technology.

Zsuzsa Gille is Professor of Sociology and Director of Global Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is author of Paprika, Foie Gras, and Red Mud: The Politics of Materiality in the European Union and From the Cult of Waste to the Trash Heap of History: The Politics of Waste in Socialist and Postsocialist Hungary, which received honorable mention for the ASEEES Davis Center Book Prize; editor (with Maria Todorova) of Post-Communist Nostalgia; and co-author of Global Ethnography: Forces, Connections and Imaginations in a Postmodern World.


"The Socialist Good Life is a first-class, rigorously researched, richly documented, and thought-provoking book, which will make a significant contribution to scholarship in its field."

 (Graham H. Roberts, author of Material Culture in Russia and the USSR: Things Values, Identities)

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Table of Contents


1. The Pleasures of Backwardness / Zsuzsa Gille, Cristofer Scarboro, and Diana Mincytė

2. Consuming Dialogues: Pleasure, Restraint, "Backwardness," and "Civilization" in Eastern Europe / Mary Neuburger

3. Just Rewards: The Social Contract and Communism's Hard Bargain with the Citizen-Consumer / Patrick Hyder Patterson

4. Conceptualizing Consumption in the Polish People's Republic / Brian Porter-Szűcs

5. Oranges and the New Black: Importing, Provisioning, and Consuming Tropical Fruits and Coffee in the GDR, 1971–1989 / Anne Dietrich

6. VCRs, Modernity, and Consumer Culture in Late State Socialist Poland / Patryk Wasiak

7. The Enchantment of Imaginary Europe: Consumer Practices in Post-Soviet Ukraine / Tania Bulakh

8. The Late Socialist Good Life and its Discontents: Bit, Kultura, and the Social Life of Goods / Cristofer Scarboro

9. The Prosumerist Resonance Machine: Rethinking Political Subjectivity and Consumer Desire in State Socialism / Zsuzsa Gille and Diana Mincytė