In the field of consumption history there is growing interest in informal shopping practices, smuggling, and black-market activities in state socialist societies. Yet, little emphasis has been placed on how the foremost socialist workplace, the factory, became a crucial hub for smuggled goods and the extent to which workers played a role within it. This article explores local Budapest court cases from the beginning of the 1960s using the methodological insights of everyday history (Alltagsgeschichte). The cases show that white-collar workers (and in rare cases blue-collar workers) with a command of foreign languages frequently acted as middlemen in making transactions. This specific cultural capital put white-collar workers in a position to gain profit over and above their usual state salary, often contradicting wage hierarchies set by the state. At the same time, blue-collar workers embraced informal shopping possibilities at the factory in a climate of diversifying consumer expectations. This article examines how informal practices of selling and obtaining goods transformed relations among workers and created a new social hierarchy within working-class communities.
Show Me Your Watch, and I’ll Tell You Where You Work: Obtaining Scarce Goods via the Workplace in 1960s Socialist Hungary
ANNINA GAGYIOVA teaches history of communism in Central and Eastern Europe at Charles University in Prague. She is currently publishing her PhD thesis, titled “From Goulash to Fridges: Individual Consumption between Eigensinn and Political Dominance in Socialist Hungary (1956–1989).” Her research focuses on the history of consumption and everyday life in state socialism.
Annina Gagyiova; Show Me Your Watch, and I’ll Tell You Where You Work: Obtaining Scarce Goods via the Workplace in 1960s Socialist Hungary. Labor 1 September 2020; 17 (3): 73–90. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15476715-8349368
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