Industrial Control over the Socialist Town: Benevolence or Exploitation?

Industrial Control over the Socialist Town: Benevolence or Exploitation?

Industrial Control over the Socialist Town: Benevolence or Exploitation?

Industrial Control over the Socialist Town: Benevolence or Exploitation?

Synopsis

The author addresses the neglected issue of the relations between the functioning of powerful state industrial firms and the town under socialism. As they strived for labor force, the manufacturing and mining employers in Central and Eastern Europe became prominent gatekeepers controlling access to scarce goods and services, which reflected a specific labor market segmentation. The distribution of social benefits and burdens they generated enhanced life chances of certain groups by and large at the cost of the underprivileged--women and the elderly in particular. This socialist industry contributed to social injustice and deprivation as well as the reproduction of entrapping spatial settings such as factory colonies and areas reserved for potential expansion.

Excerpt

This study rests on a deep belief that although the social order that prevailed in Central and Eastern Europe for decades is past, it does not follow that it is mere history from which nothing can be learned. For many people on the Right, the malfunctioning of the economy and society under socialism has been a deeply ingrained belief, which the eventual collapse only confirms. For many on the Left, it is tempting to reject this experience altogether on the grounds that it did not conform to true socialist principles. Thus, there are little discussion and reflection on the workings and peculiarities of this system, the understanding of which is by no means satisfactory. As late as 1989, David Smith (1989, 3) observed that "the cities of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union are, therefore, almost a contemporary terra incognita." For few issues is this more true than for inequalities in the distribution of social, economic, and political power -- one of the central concerns of contemporary social science. the experience of state socialism matters here because it was the most comprehensive and lasting modern endeavor to create a social organization as an alternative to the dominant capitalist model. Peter Saunders, Ray Pahl, and Manuel Castels, to name just a few, have devoted considerable attention to the role of nonmarket allocation of social goods by the public sector (collective consumption) in capitalist towns. the influence of state-administered, nonmarket distribution on social divisions manifest in socialist urban places was incomparably greater. a further, intrinsic feature of state socialism was vast involvement of manufacturing and mining enterprises in the provision of a wide range of consumer goods and services. Therefore, industrial producers might have appeared, on one hand, as local benefactors, while, on the other, they wielded extensive control over various normally separate domains of so-

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