Socialism: Ideals, Ideologies, and Local Practice

Socialism: Ideals, Ideologies, and Local Practice

Socialism: Ideals, Ideologies, and Local Practice

Socialism: Ideals, Ideologies, and Local Practice


Socialism as a political system may be on the wane, yet no one can doubt that its cultural legacies will make themselves felt for years to come, and on a worldwide scale. The contributors to this volume adopt a variety of anthropological approaches to illuminate changes which have removed socialists from power in many countries. Presenting detailed ethnographic accounts across a wide range of countries, they bring out the factors which have given socialism such a profound worldwide impact, including a substantial impact upon the discipline of anthropology itself. The first sustained and wide-ranging investigation of socialism by social anthropologists, this volume will enable readers to understand better how socialism has been experienced by millions of people and thereby to now better understand how they may cope with post-socialist dilemmas.


The 1991 Conference of the Association of Social Anthropologists was convened 9-12 April in Cambridge. Meetings were held at the University Centre, whilst accommodation and meals-including a splendid celebration of the ninetieth birthday of Sir Raymond Firth, an active conference participant-were provided by Corpus Christi College. Supporting facilities were provided by the Department of Social Anthropology, where the convenor would not have survived without the secretarial assistance of Mrs Margaret Story and Mrs Mary MacGinley. He is especially grateful to Dr Frances Pine, who undertook all the responsibilities of local organizer with great efficiency.

Further thanks must be extended to Ernest Gellner, William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology in Cambridge, who has done much to pioneer the anthropological study of socialism, both in theory and in practice. He played a full part in the conference, and has kindly contributed a Foreword to this volume in his own inimitable style.

The convenor/editor is also indebted to many other ASA members who chaired sessions and contributed to three days of fascinating exploration; and especially to Keith Hart and David Parkin, who provided stimulating summaries at the closing session.

Finally, he wishes to place on record his thanks to the following organizations for grants which enabled a substantial number of Soviet and East European scholars to take an active part in the conference: the British Academy, the British Council, the Royal Anthropological Institute, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

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