Verdery Post–Annie

I found myself particularly interested with Katherine Verdery’s description of consumption. I do not have much previous knowledge about socialism and why it fell. As she begins to explain consumption in socialist context, she refers back to her discussion of production. The problem of socialism all began with its system of “centralized planning”. “Socialism’s fragility begins with the system of “centralized planning” which the center neither adequately planned nor controlled” (Verdery, 20). The central planners would come up with targets and come up with a means to reach their target goal in production. The problem was, “a result of all the padding of budgets and hoarding of materials was widespread shortages, for which reason socialist economies are called economies of shortage” (Verdery, 21). The other side of production is the consumption. I personally feel that the fall of socialism was more because of the consumption end than the production end. The centralized planning of production never had potential to be stable because “once a consumer got hold of something, the center no longer controlled it; central power was less served by giving things away than by producing things it could continue to control” (verdery, 26). Verdery mentions how in our society we view consumption as primarily a socioeconomic question, which I agree with. Socialism makes consumption into a very politically involved issue. Where the ideal is to have goods distributed fairly among the people, socialism fails in production and consumption causing a constant increase in needs. The system of production and consumption are much to blame, I feel, for the fall of socialism.

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2 Responses to Verdery Post–Annie

  1. rmj007 says:

    I agree with the notion that consumption in socialism is the reason the system failed. If the “central power was less served by giving things away than producing”, yet the system desired to maintain and/or expand power while giving the population all it needed to survive and be happy enough with said system to continue to work for it, it is very hard to see how both ends could be accomplished. I realize that nowhere does it mention that workers must be happy, or indeed healthy, enough to continue to work, but this is something that really goes without saying- yet the USSR seemed not to take it into account. This, I believe is another chief reason of socialism’s failure in the USSR; that the government did not take human fulfillment into account. There always exists a choice to work- perhaps not whether or not to go to your job, but whether or not to work to capacity. If all those working are not working anywhere near capacity, a business will likely fail, and because of the central planning, the USSR was in large part a business.

  2. meh048 says:

    Like Annie, I did not have much prior knowledge about socialism and why it fell. I felt that Verdery’s description was very helpful and straightforward, aided by many examples. I agree that “The problem of socialism all began with its system of ‘centralized planning’.” Over-estimation of materials and labor needed for production and the shortages they caused led to an economic state which could function within itself for a time, but had no way of surviving in a capitalist based world economy. However, I believe that production, more so than consumption led to the fall of socialism. Within socialist societies, producing means of production is more important than producing consumer goods which are essentially given away under Socialist Paternalism and cease being under the central power’s control. This led to the production of very low-quality consumer goods which, when hard economic times required the attempted sale of these items to outside consumers, could not compete in the worldwide economy. Therefore, poor production of goods led to the fall of socialism, not poor consumption.