Communism Unwrapped: Consumption in Cold War Eastern Europe

By Paulina Bren; Mary Neuburger | Go to book overview

14
The House That
Socialism Built
Reform, Consumption, and Inequality
in Postwar Yugoslavia

Brigitte Le Normand

Socialist Yugoslavia held a unique place within the spectrum of state policies and consumer cultures that characterized postwar Eastern Europe. Although outside the Bloc as of 1948, Yugoslavia followed the Bloc pattern to a surprising degree. At the same time, it was never constrained by Soviet policy or oversight. This had far-reaching consequences as Yugoslavia was more openly able to prioritize consumer needs and curtail central planning in favor of a consumer-driven economy. Starting in 1957, personal consumption went from being last on the list of priorities to occupying the middle position in the social plan for 1957–1961, which set out the economic goals for this period.1 It shortly rose to the top priority, culminating in the major reforms of July 1965, during which Yugoslav policymakers fundamentally altered the central planning system, gradually turning it into a “mixed economy.” In this system the market played a greater role, and enterprises (though the vast majority were still socially owned) vied for clients. As a result, in contrast to the queues and empty shelves that were common in the Eastern Bloc for much of the period, shops in Yugoslavia were overflowing with products, domestic and foreign, common and luxurious.

Yet Yugoslavia, like the rest of the Eastern Bloc, was still a socialist country, with a one-party state, social ownership of production, and a

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