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203 nine Conclusion After walking the reader through the waste history of Hungary, it is finally time to step back and put the research in context by interpreting the empirical data and by revisiting the concept of waste. Evaluating Hungary’s Waste History In the foregoing chapters I have presented a history of Hungary’s waste regimes from 1948 to the present. I have sliced this history along three dimensions—the production of waste, the representation of waste, and the politics of waste—and I have analyzed the limitations and contradictions of each waste regime—the metallic, the efficiency, and the chemical— through the BCW/Garé case study. Helping the reader in this review is a summary table (table 9.1). In the fifties, the Hungarian Workers’ Party’s economic concern with growth and political concern with the control over resources required a new ethos and the creation of a New (Wo)Man who made the problems of production his/her personal concern, renouncing his/her individual needs. This puritan ethos, coupled with the Party’s primitive materialism that bordered on material worship, endowed waste with a whole series of from the cult of waste to the trash heap of history 204 positive values. The problem of waste was not framed as a problem of its production; that was more or less accepted as one of the many necessary by-products of building communism. The problem was letting it ‘‘go to waste’’—that is, leaving it unutilized. From this perspective waste was a found treasure, an extra resource to be mobilized for fulfilling the plans; in sum, a benevolent deus ex machina. The existence of waste, which could have been seen as a failure of central planning, was therefore interpreted as providing a resource that could only be fully appreciated and used in socialism, with the help of ingenious class-conscious workers. Because of the prevailing identification of waste with metal scrap, and the propaganda hailing hardness and the resistance of workers’ bodies that could mold materials and nature to their will, I have termed this regime ‘‘metallic.’’ In this regime waste was treated as use value, and the state saw it as its goal to keep wastes under central control by issuing waste delivery quotas and organizing the central redistribution of wastes in order to recirculate them in production. Public discourse concentrated on waste production, and waste liquidation was a taboo. As an unintended consequence, however, the policy tools, such as waste quotas, and the concept of waste led to an increased production of waste and to the accumulation of unnecessary, unreusable, and nonrecyclable wastes. In the reform period, it became clear that the gap between capitalist and socialist countries and the latter’s economic dependence on the former was only growing, a point the oil crisis drove home rather painfully. The Party’s key concern was chipping away at the rate of this trend and demonstrating at all costs that the leaders were still competent and the country was able to compete. Now, the existence of waste was seen as yet another sign of backwardness, which could only be reduced by more growth. By treating waste as inefficiency, even if still basically a useful material, it could be reintegrated into the Party’s plans of modernization and rationalization and into the liberalization project of reformers and enterprise management. By tackling the waste problem through technological innovation and economic tools, the country’s technocracy could prove its competence. The efficiency regime was characterized by a monetized concept of waste: waste was seen as a cost of production, and waste reduction and reuse were seen as steps to increase efficiency. Policy tools emphasized the financial motivation of waste producers and included credits, subsidies, and price manipulation. As the fifties’ strict use-value mentality was relaxed, waste liquidation became legitimate. Professionals with economic and technical expertise were encouraged to participate both in achieving goals of waste reduction and reuse and in facilitating safe dumping. In this regime, both Table 9.1. Hungary’s Waste Regimes Waste Regimes Production of Waste Representation of Waste Politics of Waste Contradictions, Paradoxes, Crisis Tendencies Metallic Regime 1948–1974 Forms of waste: Allocative; material Social agency: State is owner and ‘‘manager’’; reuse is a political task and is movementized Material agency: Wastes that cannot be treated as always reusable and recyclable metal scrap escape reuse efforts, they accumulate and rot, causing environmental problems Identification of waste: metal scrap; useful...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780253116925
Related ISBN
9780253348388
MARC Record
OCLC
216934526
Pages
264
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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