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Bought and Sold

Living and Losing the Good Life in Socialist Yugoslavia

Patrick Hyder Patterson

Publication Year: 2011

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.

Published by: Cornell University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

...Yugoslavia is hard to understand. To the extent that I have been able to make some sense of it, that success is built on the extraordinary work done by other scholars. The list could go on and on, but I do want to offer special thanks to those Yugoslav specialists from whom I have learned so much over the years, through so many lively conversations about Yugoslavia and...

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A Note on Archival Sources

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pp. xiii-xiv

...In most if not all cases individual pages within an archival unit have not been numbered in the course of archival processing to date, so references to individual archival documents have been cited when possible with details as to titles, authors, and dates suffi cient to facilitate identification...

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Prologue: The Good Life and the Yugoslav Dream

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pp. xv-xx

...Refl ecting 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...

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Introduction: Getting It

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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...

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1. Living It

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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...

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2. Making It

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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...

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3. Selling It

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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 offi cial skepticism and even outright hostility did not disappear overnight. Rather, advertising...

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4. Fearing It

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pp. 148-196

...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 Markovic´ captured the awkward contradictions of the consumer experience in the latest phase of modern industrial production. Ostensibly the observation...

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5. Taming It

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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-offi cial rules or guidelines regarding these phenomena. To the extent that we may fairly speak...

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6. Fighting It

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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...

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7. Loving It

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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...

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8. Needing It

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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...

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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...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 329-342


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pp. 343-352

E-ISBN-13: 9780801463631
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801450044

Page Count: 388
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1