Accepted paper:

The Socialist Yugoslav 'pact' and the rise of the Yugosphere: the endurance of Yugoslavia's consumer culture as an alternative to state authority


Pieter Troch (Ghent University)

Paper short abstract:

In the economic and political crisis of the 1980s, Socialist Yugoslavia’s consumer culture perpetuated in numerous alternative means of survival that ignored not only the Yugoslav state but also the new ethno-national state borders and can thus explain the endurance of the ‘Yugosphere’.

Paper long abstract:

The consumer culture of Socialist Yugoslavia was a crucial contributor to the promising ascent and popular legitimacy of the Yugoslav road to communism. Yugoslav consumerism was part of a 'pact' between the Communist political leadership and the 'working people': In exchange for social stability, the Yugoslav citizenry received certain socio-economic privileges (in comparison to the Soviet countries), such as consumerism, labour migration, cross-border shopping, and self-management. When the economic crisis hit Yugoslavia hard in the early 1980s - leading to the first, shocking signs of shortage and restriction - the pact between the political leadership and the Yugoslav citizenry perpetuated in a modified form: the authorities turned a blind eye on numerous alternative means of survival and strategies for pertaining Yugoslav well-being within a failing economic system, such as absenteeism, hidden unemployment and low working ethos, grey economy, informal personal networks, and cross-border smuggling. Violations of regulations became the rule rather than the exception. This kept expressions of socio-economic dissatisfaction remarkably low-profile, but resulted in a crisis of state legitimacy and widespread indifference to state authority. These alternative means of survival not only ignored the Yugoslav state but also the new ethno-national state borders and can thus explain the endurance of the Yugosphere' of transnational and supra-ethnic social, economic, cultural, and political connections.

panel P048
Cross-border consumption and collaboration in post-Yugoslav everyday life