The subject presents obvious difficulties. What is it that makes life worth living? How do you measure or quantify quality, especially in a country that does not lend itself to the kind of studies sociologists carry out in the West? The German and American scholars contributing to this book have done their best to overcome these difficulties, and the result is a series of sharply etched statements on living standards, trends in consumption, housing, services, medical care, education, working conditions and alcoholism. The picture is not the one Soviet propaganda presents to the world, yet this is low-key academic analysis, not counterpropaganda. Some comparisons are made with the West, with Eastern Europe and with the U.S.S.R.'s own past, but they do not constitute the main message of the book. Further study on these and other aspects of Soviet life is surely called for as the pace of change quickens and glasnost opens more doors to sociological enquiry.
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