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Communism UnwrappedConsumption in Cold War Eastern Europe$
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Paulina Bren and Mary Neuburger

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199827657

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199827657.001.0001

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The Socialist Clearinghouse

The Socialist Clearinghouse

Alcohol, Reputation, and Gender in Romania’s Second Economy

(p.255) 10 The Socialist Clearinghouse
Communism Unwrapped

Narcis Tulbure

Oxford University Press

While numerous studies have tracked the role of the socialist second economy in supplementing state forms of “rational redistribution,” few have managed to capture its peculiar symbiotic relation between the informal and the official sector. Narcis Tulbure’s chapter offers a novel approach to the second economy in Romania during the 1980s focusing on one of the central arenas of sociability at the time, bodegas (or taverns) situated in villages and working neighborhoods of towns. This, he argues, was a key sphere of material and symbolic exchange, associated with the barter of goods and services “taken” from state enterprises and circulating informally. Village bodegas functioned as “bourses” for the circulation of information and things escaping the control of the state and as “clearing houses” for debts accumulated in informal transactions. These were also gendered spaces, arenas for the production of masculinity premised on the exclusion of women. Alcohol, however, was not exclusively men’s business as many women were actively involved in moon-shining within the household. They relied on extensive networks of neighbors, friends and relatives essential for the procurement of scarce goods or for reciprocal help with agricultural work. This chapter sheds light on some of the fundamental connections between consumption, subjectivity, gender, and social action during late socialism in Romania. Even as Romania became the most repressive regime in the Bloc, state control over consumption had to continually negotiate with local practices. Duplicitous state actors and unofficial economies were always inexorably intertwined.

Keywords:   consumption, gender, reputation, socialism, masculinity, information, alcohol, second economy, moonshine, work discipline

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