Bought and Sold

Bought and Sold: Living and Losing the Good Life in Socialist Yugoslavia

Patrick Hyder Patterson
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 388
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Bought and Sold
    Book Description:

    Yugoslavia was unique among the communist countries of the Cold War era in its openness to mixing cultural elements from both socialism and capitalism. Unlike their counterparts in the nations of the Soviet Bloc, ordinary Yugoslavs enjoyed access to a wide range of consumer goods and services, from clothes and appliances to travel agencies and discotheques. From the mid-1950s onward the political climate in Yugoslavia permitted, and later at times encouraged, a consumerist lifestyle of shopping, spending, acquiring, and enjoying that engaged the public on a day-to-day basis through modern advertising and sales techniques. In Bought and Sold, Patrick Hyder Patterson reveals the extent to which socialist Yugoslavia embraced a consumer culture usually associated with capitalism and explores the role of consumerism in the federation's collapse into civil war in 1991.

    Patterson argues, became a land where the symbolic, cultural value of consumer goods was a primary factor in individual and group identity. He shows how a new, aggressive business establishment promoted consumerist tendencies that ordinary citizens eagerly adopted, while the Communist leadership alternately encouraged and constrained the consumer orientation. Abundance translated into civic contentment and seemed to prove that the regime could provide goods and services equal to those of the capitalist West, but many Yugoslavs, both inside and outside the circles of official power, worried about the contradiction between the population's embrace of consumption and the dictates of Marxist ideology. The result was a heated public debate over creeping consumerist values, with the new way of life finding fierce critics and, surprisingly for a communist country, many passionate and vocal defenders.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6363-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. A Note on Archival Sources
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Prologue The Good Life and the Yugoslav Dream
    (pp. xv-xx)

    Reflecting on socialism in Yugoslavia at the close of its first decade, Milovan Djilas complained that his country’s Communist Party and state officials had betrayed the promise of their own revolution by creating a New Class: an exclusive coterie of apparatchiks seduced by the material trappings of the power they enjoyed, entrenched in their control of the nation’s income and resources, and, as a result, utterly at odds with the time-honored communist ideal of a classless society. Djilas, once one of Tito’s closest associates and later the Yugoslav dissident par excellence, used his book The New Class to deliver a...

  6. Introduction: Getting It: Making Sense of Socialist Consumer Culture
    (pp. 1-18)

    This book explains something that was simply not supposed to happen: for all their emphasis on material prosperity and social welfare, socialist states were not supposed to generate “consumer societies” where shoppers’ desires supplanted genuine human needs and where the symbolic, expressive, cultural value of the goods and services purchased became a primary factor of individual and group identity. And yet, as shown here, these things did happen in socialist Yugoslavia, with extraordinary consequences for both the life and the death of the Yugoslav experiment in reformist socialism and multiethnic federalism.

    Though it is easy enough to forget this fact...

  7. 1 Living It: Yugoslavia’s Economic Miracle
    (pp. 19-48)

    By the mid-1960s millions of ordinary Yugoslavs were eagerly participating in a burgeoning culture of consumerism that made their society quite unlike anything else in the contemporary socialist world. Not much earlier, however, a Yugoslav version of consumer society would have been all but unimaginable. In the years from 1945 to 1950 the country looked much like any other communist state. This was a period of authoritarian political control and centralized economic decision making. But beginning in 1950 the Yugoslav leadership set out on an exceptional new path. The next fifteen years would see the establishment and elaboration of an...

  8. 2 Making It: Building a Socialist Brand of Market Culture
    (pp. 49-108)

    Told from the perspective of one of socialist Yugoslavia’s first professional advertising journals, the vignette related in the epigraph above tried to capture the way things got done in the bad old days. With this mordant little tale, brief but full of meaning, the disapproving editors of Naš publicitet [“Our Publicity” or “Our Promotion”] offered their readers (and, not coincidentally, the clients and potential clients of their parent institution Oglasni Zavod Hrvatske, or OZEHA) a taste of the supposedly backward past of Yugoslav advertising and the sorts of shoddy practices they were aiming to transcend.¹ It was not a pretty...

  9. 3 Selling It: Legitimizing the Appeal of Market Culture
    (pp. 109-147)

    Yugoslavia’s departure from Stalinism opened the door to new attitudes toward commercial promotion, but those in positions of authority typically did not treat advertising and marketing as “natural” elements of the country’s commercial life. The atmosphere of official skepticism and even outright hostility did not disappear overnight. Rather, advertising and marketing activities—and, at times, even the very concepts themselves—had to be naturalized. To accomplish this, a small dedicated cadre of specialists mounted an aggressive campaign aimed at securing their creative autonomy, building an industry, and winning a place for themselves as respected professionals alongside other members of the...

  10. 4 Fearing It: The Values of Marxism and the Contradictions of Consumerism
    (pp. 148-196)

    “The worker is still the humblest of human beings, even when he drives a Chrysler and has colour television at home.”¹ With that comment, pithy and packed with the sympathy, anger, and skepticism that typified Yugoslavia’s rich Marxist-humanist “deviation” of the 1960s and 1970s, political philosopher and social critic Mihailo Marković captured the awkward contradictions of the consumer experience in the latest phase of modern industrial production. Ostensibly the observation was targeted at life under capitalism: although more and more working-class laborers in the socialist countries were taking in the pleasures of television, we can safely assume that few or...

  11. 5 Taming It: The Party-State Establishment and the Perils of Pleasure
    (pp. 197-224)

    Socialist critics found, as we have seen, plenty to say about the new Yugoslav culture of commercialism and the promotional activities that were driving it. But the record also reveals that even as late as the 1980s the Yugoslav political-administrative establishment had produced, in fact, surprisingly little in the way of official or even quasi-official rules or guidelines regarding these phenomena. To the extent that we may fairly speak of a “party line” on advertising or the rise of consumer society, any such code was at least as noticeable for the practical latitude it granted to the development of consumer...

  12. 6 Fighting It: New Left Attacks on the Consumerist Establishment and the Yugoslav Dream
    (pp. 225-251)

    Although most of those who expressed misgivings about Yugoslavia’s consumerist orientation drew on a decidedly left-wing and cosmopolitan tradition, Marxism did not occupy the entire critical field. Even frank conservative reactions against market culture and consumer society also marked the public discussion of the issue on occasion. Along these lines, for example, Roman Catholic theologian Franc Rode turned to his institution’s long history of anti-materialist teaching in mounting a traditionalist critique of both the global phenomenon of consumerism and the socialist practice that, he claimed, had willingly embraced it. Rode, a highly influential cleric with strong Vatican connections who after...

  13. 7 Loving It: Ordinary People, Everyday Life, and the Power of Consumption
    (pp. 252-293)

    In contrast to the harsh judgments that the critics poured out, the sentiments expressed by many other Yugoslavs often communicated a strikingly lenient attitude toward both the consumerist orientation and the business and press institutions that drove it. Ample evidence suggests that, unlike those Marxists and others who saw advertising and the media’s indulgence of consumer desire as dangerous agents of unsuitable capitalist values and as an engine of false needs, many if not most ordinary Yugoslavs saw the needs in question as real enough. They were neither especially vexed by market culture nor much concerned about its potentially harmful...

  14. 8 Needing It: The Eclipse of the Dream, the Collapse of Socialism, and the Death of Yugoslavia
    (pp. 294-319)

    In socialist Yugoslavia, consumerism created a new New Class. Contrary to Marxian models and the stated goals of Yugoslav socialist policy, which imputed class identities based on a person’s role in a system of production, membership in this New Class was predicated, in essence, upon participation in a modern style of mass consumption, a complex of behaviors, tastes, and attitudes that in many respects resembled those seen in the classic Western sites of contemporary consumer society. As the case presented throughout this volume demonstrates, its emergence was triggered by the government’s acknowledgment of a perceived need to satisfy consumer desires...

  15. Epilogue Missing It: Yugo-Nostalgia and the Good Life Lost
    (pp. 320-328)

    When Milovan Djilas first conceptualized the workings of his “new class” of privileged political and administrative functionaries in the mid-1950s, the subtle connections between political life and mass culture in Eastern Europe seemed, to most observers, a minor concern at best. Anchored as they were to the paradigm of the recalcitrant, principled, and politically engaged dissident, the typical Western inquiries into “life under socialism” throughout the Cold War era were suffused with a concern for the towering issues of freedom and political leadership. This has long been true of Yugoslavia as well, where the standard narratives of high politics are,...

  16. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 329-342)
  17. Index
    (pp. 343-352)