In This Review

Bought and Sold: Living and Losing the Good Life in Socialist Yugoslavia
Bought and Sold: Living and Losing the Good Life in Socialist Yugoslavia
By Patrick Hyder Patterson
Cornell Univ Pr, 2011, 388 pp.

“Consumer-oriented communist society” sounds like an oxymoron. But that phrase, Patterson argues, perfectly describes the Yugoslav system in the 1970s and 1980s. Once Marshal Tito broke with the Soviet Union in 1948 and launched Yugoslavia on a new path focused on worker self-management, a spirit of consumerism gradually began to take hold. The public, pushed by advertising agencies and encouraged by Communist Party bureaucrats, bought into consumption as a way of life. And eventually, consume they did -- on a level fundamentally similar to their capitalist neighbors and fundamentally unlike any of the other socialist countries. Patterson captures the scale and shape of the buying, the power of advertising, and the effect of Yugoslav guest workers returning from capitalist consumer societies. He also chronicles the misgivings about consumer culture felt in some parts of society and their efforts to tame and then fight the values that came with the goods. Nonetheless, consuming held the country together. When the economic crisis hit in the 1980s, the good life dissipated, and Patterson maintains that the loss of that source of legitimacy did as much to sunder the country as the rise of ethnonationalism.