Consumption in Postcommunist Countries
University of Michigan, USA
Postcommunist countries are those countries that were once characterized by centrally planned economic systems whose twin goals were modernization and an equitable distribution of national wealth across the population. Thus, “postcommunist” refers to places where communist rule collapsed (as in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in 1989–91). It also refers to places where the communist party continues to hold political power but has embraced market reforms and opened up the nation's economy to global forms of commerce (as in China, Cuba, and Vietnam). The bulk of scholarship on postcommunist consumption has focused on the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, although there is a rapidly growing scholarship on consumer culture in China, as well as some on smaller non-European countries.
During the Cold War, it was commonly assumed that communist societies were plagued by constant shortages of consumer goods and that the goods that were produced were of shoddy quality. Both shortages and shoddy goods were, ostensibly, caused by the inefficiencies of central planning and communist ideologies of austerity and anti-individualism. Since the 1990s, a voluminous scholarship has emerged that documents the robust material culture produced during the communist era by state factories and collective workshops, and also by private entrepreneurs ...