Things Under Socialism: The Soviet Experience

Sheila Fitzpatrick

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Consumption

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199561216
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191744099 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 Things Under Socialism: The Soviet Experience

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The unequal distribution of things was one of the basic iniquities of capitalism. Coupled with confidence in future abundance was the recognition that, for the short term, in the wake of the Russian Revolution and before the ‘building of socialism’ had been completed, things might be tough and goods scarce. So the immediate Revolutionary task was to ensure that those who had formerly been poor in goods became rich, and vice versa. The challenge for the Soviet Union was how to successfully accomplish that redistribution. The new phrase of Revolution – Joseph Stalin's ‘revolution from above’ – was a state-initiated great leap forward on the economic front, involving a rapid industrialization drive, collectivization of peasant agriculture, abolition of private trade in the towns, and the introduction of central economic planning. This article focuses on things under socialism in the Soviet Union and considers scarcity and privilege, the rediscovery of good taste, the promises of abundance under Nikita Khrushchev, Eastern Europe and ‘socialist modernity’, and access to Western goods after the collapse of communism.

Keywords: Soviet Union; socialism; communism; good taste; scarcity; privilege; Nikita Khrushchev; Eastern Europe; socialist modernity; Western goods

Article.  8283 words. 

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