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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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Kids, Cars, or Cashews?

Kids, Cars, or Cashews?

Debating and Remembering Consumption in Socialist Hungary

(p.325) 13 Kids, Cars, or Cashews?
Communism Unwrapped

Tamas Dombos

Lena Pellandini-Simanyi

Oxford University Press

As of the 1960s, various factors converged within the Eastern Bloc that allowed for higher consumption levels. But as basic needs were largely satisfied, what sort of “higher level needs” socialism should meet became uncertain. The prevailing assumption was that, in harmony with the basic tenets of Marxism, once the means of production and ownership were changed, so would life. Yet no known socialist models of affluence existed that would have shown how this “new way of life” should look. Even more worrying was the fact that people’s actual desires carried elements of pre-socialist traditions and Western consumerism. Partly as a result of these ambiguities, in Hungary from the 1960s onwards, intense debates took place within the Planning Commission and in the country’s newspapers about the socialist lifestyle and which needs were to be considered a legitimate part of it. What was at stake in these debates was more than the pragmatic questions of production and allocation; instead, through the issue of consumption, competing definitions of socialism and visions of an ideal socialist way of life were articulated. In this chapter, Tamas Dombos and Pellandini-Simanyi explore the interplay between state-generated ideals of consumption and people’s everyday practices through a parallel analysis of these public consumption debates during the communist period and personal memories after 1989 based on interviews conducted by Pellandini-Simanyi.

Keywords:   socialism, post-socialism, Hungary, consumption, Morality, oral history, discourse, memory

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