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105 five The Efficiency Model Starting in the mid-seventies, the concept of waste went through a radical transformation in Hungary. There were several factors that made the early state socialist concept outmoded: (1) the recognition of the unintended consequences of the early state socialist waste policies; (2) the economic reforms, which created a new discursive environment for waste issues; (3) the post-1956 Kádárist détente, which rendered the disciplinary waste politics of the fifties obsolete; and (4) the successive dramatic price rises in raw materials and energy on the world market. In this chapter, I will describe a move away from the appreciation of the intrinsic values of waste—that is, from a strict use-value mentality and the metallic concept of waste—again along the three dimensions of the production , the representation, and the politics of waste. In particular, I will analyze (a) the changes and continuities in the production of waste, (b) the monetization of the concept of waste, and (c) the professionalization of waste issues. Discrediting the Movement Approach to Waste Reuse In 1964, Hungarian writer Endre Fejes published his novel Generation of Rust, which was ultimately translated into more than thirty languages. reform and reduce (1975 – 1984) 106 The book, whose title literally translates as ‘‘rust cemetery’’ (Rozsdatemető), narrates the life of the Hábetler family through the twentieth century, and thus well into socialism, in order to make sense of a murder: János, a son of the first generation covered in the book, kills his brother-in-law in a scrap yard. The ascetically worded chronicle provided a sobering portrait of Hungary’s so-called working class, devoid of purpose, prospects, values, and sophistication. Clearly, Fejes hinted, the former petite bourgeoisie and peasantry failed to metamorphose into the high-minded, class-conscious proletariat the officials envisioned. This stratum that socialism failed to ‘‘melt down into useful material’’ (to quote Menzel’s fictional character again; see chapter 3) had, according to the last words of the murder victim, found itself on the waste heap of history. This regime is kissing your forehead, is begging you to please go to college, be doctors, engineers, judges, chief plant managers, chief inspectors, chief military officers, chief god-knows-what, and you have crawled out from your barracks, and keep on living like hamsters. Jazz, dance, ‘‘go, Fradi.’’1 You are just stuffing your faces, wolfing down cottage cheese noodles, fried fish, burping and slipping into bed, dear comrade Hábetler! (Fejes 1964, 345–46) Fejes leaves it up to the reader to decide whether they got there on their own or because the Party who officially represented their interests betrayed them. While one of officialdom’s highest recognitions of intellectuals, the Attila József Prize, wasn’t taken away from the writer, the Party’s propagandists opened fire ideologically on the successful volume, and a veritable shoot-out with other intellectuals defending Fejes ensued on the pages of various periodicals. State socialism as a scrap heap that had such a propensity for producing human as well as material waste became a favored metaphor of artists in the seventies. Ukrainian artist Ilya Kabakov embarked on various projects of assembling collages of mundane, everyday objects and garbage. His installation The Garbage Man portrays a communal apartment filled with garbage. Rod Mengham, a biographer of Kabakov, interprets the artist’s obsession with waste as a critique of the regime: Reversing the order of priorities in a culture whose axis was the process of production, Kabakov began to cultivate an aesthetic in the early 1980s that was organized around waste products, which lavished attention to an obsessive degree on the undervalued, on what was neglected and unwanted. Organizing several of his projects around the preservation of what had been thrown away, around preparing a taxonomy of what would normally pass as formless, Kabakov began to pose questions about the allocation of value in a system of meanings where artistic judgment is conditioned by an ideological imperative. (Mengham n.d., n.p.) The Efficiency Model 107 Kabakov himself sees a value in waste itself, and comments on the common habit of retaining everything in state socialism this way: ‘‘To deprive ourselves of all this means to part with who we were in the past, and in a certain sense, it means to cease to exist’’ (quoted in Mengham n.d., n.p.). In 1976 the internationally renowned Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal (1990...


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