A Good Buy – If You Can Get One. Purchasing cars under socialist conditions
Title: A Good Buy – If You Can Get One. Purchasing cars under socialist conditions
Author: GATEJEL, Luminita
Series/Number: EUI MWP; 2010/14
This paper gives a panoramic mapping of the infamous socialist ‘economy of shortages’ (Kornai) as it was lived and experienced by ordinary socialist citizens. It starts out by framing the general conditions under which private consumption took place in the Soviet Union, East Germany, and Romania in the last three decades of real existing socialism. Consumption issues were settled throughout the Eastern Block in the form of bargains between the state authorities and the population, in which political obedience was traded for material satisfaction. And cars were among the major assets to be distributed, especially as the amount produced could hardly cover the demand. The paper provides several examples of how the official politics of shortages dealt with this issue using politically motivated preferential distribution. In a step further, it elaborates on the inventiveness of the citizen in bending the rules of retail. These subterfuges in the shadow economy constantly challenged planned rationality and in the end wore out the ideology of official consumption.
Subject: State socialism; Romania; the Soviet Union; East Germany; automobiles; consumption; distribution; everyday life; scarcity
Type of Access: openAccess