In This Review

The Unmaking of Soviet Life: Everyday Economies After Socialism
The Unmaking of Soviet Life: Everyday Economies After Socialism
By Caroline Humphrey
Cornell University Press, 2002, 265 pp.

Humphrey takes an anthropologist's look at the way ordinary people have reacted to the crumbling of familiar material frameworks in Russia and Mongolia. Because she is reporting not on economics or politics but on how in the individual livelihood merges with "personhood," even familiar issues such as bribery, barter, and theft have added layers of meaning. For example, in terms of social standing, bribery is not the same as "tribute" and tribute is not the same as "networks of reciprocity." She ranges over circumstances from those of the "dispossessed" (primarily, forced migrants) to street gangs, and across changing roles from those of the shaman to the "new Russian." Having long studied the people of Mongolia and Russia (and within Russia, of Buryatia), Humphrey knows well how to tell the new from subtle variations on the Soviet past.