According to Katherine Verdery’s analysis, capitalism and socialism differ as they have fundamentally different objectives. There is much direct juxtaposition when comparing the two systems. The point of capitalism is to cater to the public, those with purchasing power, producing and selling as much as possible. Capitalism makes capital itself move quickly and fluidly, around countries and across borders. Socialism is quite the opposite. Socialism contradicts all these values that we know and acknowledge about our markets. In socialist countries, the central power is supposedly in utter control. The workers in socialist systems have more power because they control how much is created. However, the central authority is who/what chooses what is produced, so while workers have an elevated level of power, the population has less power. Desire for material goods is kept alive by the depriving the population of it, whereas in capitalist countries, the population is told by advertising efforts exactly what they should want and/or need. What I found most enlightening about Verdery’s analysis was when she wrote about how estimates of future materials needs of production plants were always over-estimated in order to make sure there would be enough to meet quotas. Because of the incorrect estimates, the planners for production could never realistically know and plan for what plants could actually produce. Estimates would never be correct because the information they were based off of was always incorrect. It made me wonder whether perhaps the system could have been a bit more effective, had everyone been more truthful and obedient to the system. However, the system had a very integral flaw, where its legitimacy came from satisfying the needs of the population, yet its power came from producing heavy industrial products instead of consumer goods. Socialist economies depend on the use of raw materials more than the manufacture of final products, so production is focused on acquisition and use of resources rather than producing and selling final products, while the products they were more focused on making were not ones that satisfied the needs of the population. Central power depended more on heavy industry. Gorbachev, when he came to power, saw that central authority over all economic production was unable to maintain while keeping up party power and legitimacy- the party couldn’t satisfy consumer needs and so couldn’t maintain legitimacy. He tried to give up economic monopoly to retain party control and power, but he ended up losing both, as there was no way for the party to retain all power, when they gave up the power they received from economic monopoly. Essentially, the party couldn’t survive with it, but couldn’t live without it, to put it simply.
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Remember that final presentations are due Dec. 6 in class! Final presentations / Anthropology of Socialism and Postsocialism by Andrew Asher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC
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