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11 two Toward a Social Theory of Waste State Socialism and the Environment in Academic Scholarship That socialism’s ‘‘demonstrated’’ wastefulness could turn into yet another ideological weapon demonstrating Western economic and moral superiority in the Cold War and in the postsocialist transition has much to do with the poverty of the scholarship on environmental issues in Eastern Europe. In fact, the question whether state socialism was wasteful was never really explicitly raised but rather was assumed or deduced from the uncritical application of general and outdated economic and political science approaches to state socialism. This, in turn, is the result of the mutual ignorance of East Europeanists and environmental studies scholars. Though there were studies documenting horrendous ecological disasters, mostly in the Soviet Union, environmental concerns were lacking from the agendas of sociologists, anthropologists , historians, and, to a lesser degree, political scientists. Fatally, the reverse has also been true. The few studies that have focused on ecological problems have remained uninformed by the achievements of the empirical studies done on Eastern Europe and untouched by the theoretical sophistication and methodological rigor that accrued to research on the economy, social inequalities, and culture. from the cult of waste to the trash heap of history 12 A key problem with the fledgling field of study of ecological problems in the former state socialist world was its assumption that the state and the enterprises had shared interests: Instead of serving as a referee between polluters and conservationists, government officials usually support the polluters. It is necessary to remember that the state is the manufacturer, and so there is almost always an identity of interests between the factory manager and the local government official. (Goldman 1972, 69–70) Though economists and political scientists had long since proved this view wrong and even the official ideologues in socialist countries had stopped automatically assuming an identity of interests, studies in this vein (DeBardeleben 1985; Goldman 1972; Jancar 1987; Völgyes 1974) continued to ignore the interests and constraints of enterprises.1 As a result, they assumed that it was sufficient to concentrate on the failures of the state, that is, on policy. Had these authors paid more attention to sociological, economic, and anthropological studies of state socialism, they would not have established simplistic causal relations between the poor environmental record of state socialism and either Marxism-Leninism or the absence of market mechanisms.2 Readers could deduce two things from such studies: either that the regime was the practical implementation of Marxist-Leninist philosophical principles, including, for example, the labor theory of value; or, alternatively, that the regime was a deficient copy of capitalism that failed in so many respects exactly because it lacked the law of value (for Marxian analysts) or the wisdom of the ‘‘invisible hand’’ (for more liberally minded observers) (DeBardeleben 1985; Szlávik 1991; Taga 1976; Ziegler 1992). Narrow policy analysis continued to dominate environmentally oriented social science studies even after 1989, and these studies demonstrated the same disregard for empirical research on other aspects of the regime change. These studies primarily focused on laws and other regulative measures and paid little attention to new economic interests (especially multinational corporations), the radical shift in environmental discourse , and the reappearance of the local in politics (DeBardeleben 1991; Feshbach and Friendly 1992; Klarer and Moldan 1997).3 While the early 1990s saw a simple description of environmental movements and their issues, including their prominent role in bringing down state socialism, today the field boasts several theoretically informed and critical empirical studies (Harper 1999; Lipschutz and Mayer 1996; Schwartz 2006). Even so, much remains to be done in updating the field with the advances made in sociology, anthropology, geography, and political science in Toward a Social Theory of Waste 13 the study of postsocialist economic formations and relations (Böröcz 1992; Burawoy and Hendley 1992; Burawoy and Krotov 1992; Dunn 1999; Gábor 1990; Humphrey 2002; Lampland 1995; Ledeneva 1998; Ries 1997; Stark and Bruszt 1998; Verdery 1996; Woodruff 1999), social inequalities (Barany 1994; Humphrey 1999; Lemon 2000), regional inequalities and the spatiality of power (Bodnár 2000; Humphrey 1999), new and old identities and cultural and discourse analysis (Böröcz 2001; Hann 2002), and East-West power relations (Böröcz 2001; Sampson 1999; Wedel 1998). To my mind, there are two tasks that are especially urgent. First, we ought to subject environmental discursive formations to historical scrutiny. Here key questions are how and why certain...


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