- Theorie der sozialen Reproduktion: Zurück zu (welchem) Marx? – International Socialism
- Theorie der sozialen Reproduktion: Zurück zu (welchem) Marx?
- III. Soziale Beziehungen
- What We Do
Bauer, The Soviet Citizen. Roman meiner fabelhaften Familie, Frankfurt a. Die Geschichte des Jagdreviers Schorfheide. Eine deutsche Biographie, Stuttgart , S. Reid Hg. Paulina Bren, Tuzex and the Hustler. Living It Up in Czechoslovakia, in: dies. In den er-Jahren machte sie eine erfolgreiche Karriere in West-Berlin. Geschenksendung, keine Handelsware, Berlin Lewis H. Siegelbaum, Cars for Comrades. The Life of the Soviet Automobile, Ithaca Die Distinktionswirkung der Staatskarosse wird von der Arbeiterfamilie teils mit Stolz, teils als peinlich wahrgenommen. Dokumentation, Bd.
Kann auch anders , in: Spiegel, 2. Zu historischen Ursachen der Fremdenfeindlichkeit in Ostdeutschland, Berlin Modefotografie in der DDR, Berlin Stephen Kotkin, Uncivil Society. Padraic Kenney, A Carnival of Revolution. Kornai, The Socialist System Anm. Institutional Change and Economic Growth, —, Cambridge Jadow Hg. Deutschland hat 58, davon kein Ostdeutscher und 11 Frauen. Social inequality — a classic yet topical issue 2. Performance egalitarianism and state socialist intersectionality: The deliberate stratification of society 3.
Political-bureaucratic redistribution procedures 4.
Theorie der sozialen Reproduktion: Zurück zu (welchem) Marx? – International Socialism
Hidden affluence, hidden poverty: Stagings of egalitarianism and subcutaneous discourses about equality and inequality 6. Late state socialism as the prehistory of postcommunism 7. Social inequality — a classic yet topical issue. How about inequality in socialist countries? That is the central question of this issue.
Theorie der sozialen Reproduktion: Zurück zu (welchem) Marx?
Standard works in social history as well as international comparative studies seem to imply that this settles the question of social inequality. In any case, it is perceived to be of lesser importance than other questions such as the different ways people arranged themselves with the dictatorial regimes, the succession of generations and their experiences of the violent catastrophes of the twentieth century, or the cultural modernization of design and consumption.
There are several reasons why such a reconsideration is necessary. This includes professions and wealth, educational levels, gender, the physical capability to engage in paid work, as well as ethnic and cultural differences. What is more, it was transformed in several ways. The contributions to this issue refer to these debates by inquiring into the discursive construction of social hierarchies in state socialist countries. They tend to heuristically separate them from the actual material conditions that shaped these societies openly or covertly.
At the same time, the basic material conditions of the Soviet-type societies are not yet sufficiently researched. Due to the classification of information in the socialist countries, it is necessary to reconstruct aspects such as the distribution of income and wealth. The narrower field of communist studies offers another important approach. The totalitarianism theory, which appears somewhat sterile when confronted with the diversity of everyday life, can be made more fruitful in explaining the praxis of communist rule by combining it with social history approaches and Alltagsgeschichte.
Hence the analytical framework of issues such as top and bottom, rich and poor fundamentally differed from those of other political and social systems. Moreover, the means these regimes had at their disposal were considerable due to their unbridled will to mold society as well as their centralized organization. However, although this claim to universal control could institutionally weaken — at times even violently disrupt — the logics of social subsystems, it could not voluntaristically render them obsolete in the long run.
In the following, I will outline possible approaches to such an analysis. I consider factors such as the real distribution of social advantages and disadvantages including income, bureaucratic privileges, and the effects of the shadow economy. Temporally, this outline focuses on the post-Stalin era although many phenomena have their roots in the Stalin era. Performance egalitarianism and state socialist intersectionality: The deliberate stratification of society. A trailer park with mobile barracks in the vicinity of Leipzig in Polish hydraulic engineering workers constructing a pipeline in the GDR lived here.
The work was strenuous, but the pay was exceptionally good. The first level that must be analyzed in order to gain an understanding of social inequality in state socialism concerns the normative decisions the communist regimes made. Their most important socio-political step was to abolish the possibility to create wealth by means of accumulating economic capital. This led to the rapid material disempowerment and displacement of the bourgeois elites.
A limited power of disposal replaced private ownership of potential sources of wealth. This power of disposal primarily entailed control over the yields of economic processes. Access to these yields was the most important indicator of social advantage or disadvantage in the state socialist societies. In the everyday practice of this type of social organization, the regimes were able, and in a certain sense obliged, to devise a coherent regular income system in the national currency.
The form and gradation of this system was similar to the civil service pay tables in Western countries, but it encompassed not only the public administration sector, but all sectors including industrial production, hospitals, courts, and HO restaurants. Certainly covert negotiation mechanisms played a certain role in its conception, so that there was a certain leeway for additional pay incentives and other benefits.
III. Soziale Beziehungen
But the system provided a basic administrative overview which occupations were held in higher or lower esteem. Work-based income was the most important, legitimate basis for redistribution. Already this criterion — the ability to engage in paid work — had a selective effect.
Moreover, the system defined priorities in the worth of professions and rewarded political loyalty as well as socio-cultural conformism. At a certain point in the income hierarchy, there was little incentive to seek a higher position. The burden of additional job training as well as the obligation to do political work and to participate in disciplinary measures made the prospect of professional advancement only marginally attractive. Well-paid work was supposed to be physically strenuous and thus tended to favor men; or it was specialized work that yielded high returns.
By implication, this meant that work that was carried out by women or by unskilled workers, or that was physically less strenuous and took place in small, non-industrial shops, was less well paid. Besides skilled industrial workers, the second group that was relatively well paid was composed of leading cadres and technical specialists.
Their higher income was justified by the high degree of responsibility their occupation entailed. Still, precisely this group was obviously disadvantaged in comparison to their counterparts in capitalist societies — the incomes of entrepreneurs, managers, engineers and the like were and still are many times higher there. These professions moreover offer the chance to accumulate significant economic capital. But even in the state socialist countries, these groups were among the highest earners, even if to this day there are no precise data on their exact income levels.
The relevance of this factor was more or less strongly pronounced in different sectors and could, at least to some degree, be compensated by a highly needed professional qualification. The party state made the income privileges these two groups enjoyed relatively clear e. In the GDR, this sector encompassed more than , individuals in , or approximately 7 percent of the total working population.
The average household income of this group was at least 10 percent higher than that of civilians. Later, after several rounds of wage increases in the civilian sector, this proportion sank to between 50 and percent. In the army, wages were 20 to 50 percent above average. Its facilities are simple, not age-appropriate, and represent the best that the state is able to offer its elderly citizens.
There are no single rooms. The waiting time is two to three years; the monthly salary for employees on the general ward is marks, on the nursing ward These people used to live in flats in old buildings, with stove heating and often with many flights of stairs. Now they were happy to be cared for.
Their modesty pained me. This is the war generation that has endured many hardships — also in the postwar and reconstruction period. They are run down. They never managed to accumulate any wealth. In this country, being old meant to live at the lowest level of material existence. There were no rich old people. Those who were rich were expropriated or managed to flee to the West in time.
The proportion of women and members of culturally or political non-aligned groups was particularly high in the lower income groups. In the higher groups, their percentage was practically zero.
Since women served as the labor reserve, some taking jobs in industrial production, the female employment rate was high, thus allowing many women social independence. This becomes apparent in the cases of disabled people or elderly women who were not or no longer economically productive: their pensions, tied to their former pay levels, were very low. In accordance with the logic of productivism, social policy considered them a low priority. Those who did not share any other advantageous attributes of the system and could not, for example, access the special supply system of the higher cadres, had to content themselves with the minimum pension, which generally meant a life below the poverty line see the contribution by Christoph Lorke in this issue.
Later, they will receive vocational training in textile technology and earn their degrees. I can only briefly touch on the issue of price policy here. Even very poor people were able to buy bread, potatoes, cheap sausage, and liquor. Still, everyone profited from the subsidization of basic foodstuffs. Those who earned a higher income thus had more money to spend on better products — which were often sold at a premium price. This way, the income gap was aggravated by the difference between the prices of subsidized and non-subsidized goods.
For comparison, the average pay in the GDR was 1, marks. Political-bureaucratic redistribution procedures. To secure these privileges, the possession of sufficient funds in the national currency was often not the decisive criterion. Like the distribution of monetary income, this second distribution system was also controlled by the organs of the party state, and it amplified its effects.
The indicator that is most easily grasped by social history is urban living conditions. They had the connections and behavior dispositions necessary to secure an apartment in these settlements and were thus able to profit from housing subsidies despite their high income. Particularly in the national capital and in the regional capitals, the opulent ministry and administration service class tended to conglomerate in these settlements.
In industrial centers, the majority of their inhabitants was composed of engineers and economists. They were reserved for a relatively small group of top functionaries as well as some artists and scientists. The downside to this redistribution system — which has been extensively documented in social photography — is quite telling. One effect of the subsidization of housing in the socialist countries was that elderly people could afford relatively large flats.
When family members moved out or spouses died, they did not necessarily have to move to a smaller one. However, the quality of the sanitary or heating facilities was very low and the houses were often in a very run-down state. Elderly and poor people tended to inhabit the derelict inner cities. These living quarters only started to become attractive again beyond certain bohemian circles once they had been renovated to some degree — often by the inhabitants themselves.
They mostly lived in bleak dormitories under strict regulations. Their priority was to earn as much money as they could before they had to return to their home countries. Another important part of the political-bureaucratic redistribution system was the granting of access to well-paid, attractive, and prestigious professional training and careers for the family members or children of socially and politically aligned individuals.
The wife of an army officer might get a job as a nursery school teacher, and their children had good prospects of being admitted to university. On the one hand, traditionally prestigious professions such as doctor or scientist were considered attractive. On the other hand — at least among the ranks of the socialist service class — there was also a preference for the politically prestigious and well-paid careers in the army and the state security organs. Persons whose professions swore them to secrecy, for example certain members of the armed forces, were excluded from these privileges, but they were compensated with all the more lavish rewards in other areas.
Proximity to physical production work, management positions, technical expertise, employment in one of the apparatuses that secured the power of the regime, political and ethnic-cultural alignment, and being male as well as young or middle-aged not yet retired were rewarded. On the one hand, foreign relations e.
What We Do
But since the s they once again gained in significance and came to play an important role in economic policy. This effectively created a second level of social positioning. Those who had scarce goods and services to offer on this gray market, or a source of convertible foreign currency, were in a good position to accumulate wealth.
A very heterogeneous mix of social groups profited from these mechanisms. These again included, first and foremost, functionaries, economists, and businessmen active in the state-socialist economies. Moreover, foreign trade created an enclave of foreign currency acquisition. The economies of the state-socialist countries were so highly dependent on the acquisition of foreign currency that they first legalized its absorption by creating special commercial chains and parallel currencies, and then vigorously promoting their expansion see the contribution by Anna Ivanova in this issue.
As a compensation for those whose positions within the power apparatus swore them to secrecy, and who were thus not allowed contacts in Western countries and had little access to foreign currency, special shops were created in which they could buy Western goods with the national currency. The communist upper class of top functionaries and their families had their own special distribution channels, which granted them unlimited access to Western goods as well as higher-quality domestic export goods. Members of the GDR politburo had vast vehicle fleets, including off-road cars such as Range Rovers or Mercedes G Class vehicles, and luxury limousines that were custom-built by West German automobile producers to meet the individual demands of the clients.
Officially, these vehicle fleets were owned by the state. Similar advantages could be secured by farmers who to varying degrees, depending on the agricultural structure ran their own production. Generally, these groups were considered undesirable in communist society, and during certain phases of the regime they were politically repressed. However, due to the vital role they played in the production and supply process, these restrictions were gradually lifted.
In some cases, they were even directly supported. At the same time, their social position remained ambivalent: they could translate their sometimes very high incomes into high-quality consumer goods, Western cars, furniture, or weekend homes. But they could not easily access prestigious educations and careers or acquire travel permissions.
In some cases, this milieu even encompassed the higher echelons of the state hierarchy. Emigrants, relatives in the West, and other actors also ensured the flow of foreign currency and Western goods into the GDR — they would often send packages or bring presents on their visits from the FRG. Later, this proportion would rise to over 50 percent.
This particularly applied to citizens of countries like Poland and Hungary, which even allowed young people to temporarily work in the West on a large scale. Among the small group of internationally successful writers, musicians, and athletes and in some cases also scientists , income from foreign sources could reach significant dimensions. The members of this group were in a comfortable situation because they demonstrated the cultured nature and efficacy of the communist regimes abroad assuming they were politically loyal.
They were also subjected to less pressure to comply in their social self-depictions. Paradoxically, this special status even extended to some members of the political opposition and literary dissidents, who constantly had the threat of imprisonment hanging over them. Although they were often banned from practicing their professions and had to work as unskilled laborers, stokers, or cemetery gardeners, some of them had foreign currency incomes from honorariums and royalties.
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