Everyday Life under Communism and After

Lifestyle and Consumption in Hungary, 1945–2000
$105.00 / €88.00 / £75.00
PDF version is freely available thanks to the libraries supporting CEU Press’s Opening the Future initiative.
Publication date: 
February, 508 pages, 17 tables, 68 figures
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By providing a survey of consumption and lifestyle in Hungary during the second half of the twentieth century, this book shows how common people lived during and after tumultuous regime changes. After an introduction covering the late 1930s, the study centers on the communist era, and goes on to describe changes in the post-communist period with its legacy of state socialism.

Tibor Valuch poses a series of questions. Who could be called rich or poor and how did they live in the various periods? How did living, furnishings, clothing, income and consumption mirror the structure of the society and its transformations? How could people accommodate their lifestyles to the political and social system? How specific to the regime was consumption after the communist takeover, and how did it change after the demise of the regime? The answers, based on micro-histories, statistical data, population censuses and surveys help to understand the complexities of daily life, not only in Hungary, but also in other communist regimes in east-central Europe, with insights on their antecedents and afterlives.

List of Figures
List of Tables
List of Acronyms
Chapter One: The Study of Hungarian Everyday Life: Historiography, Methods, and Concepts
About the sources used for this volume
The concept of daily life, correlations between lifestyle and changes in society
Chapter Two: Two Hundred Pengős a Month, Five Hundred Forints, Two Thousand Forints…: Financial Circumstances, Prices, Wages, and Income Inequalities in Everyday Life
National revenue, real wages, and changes in the standard of living
Wages, prices, inequalities
Unchanging and changing forms of poverty
Accumulating property and wealth
Chapter Three: From Plentiful Privation to a Consumer Society: The Changes and Characteristics of Consumer Consumption
Consumption and consumer attitudes
The corner store, the supermarket, and the shopping center: Changes in the locations of consumer consumption
Homes, home construction, furnishings, and durable goods
Clothing and the consumption of apparel
The consumption and supply of foodstuffs
Chapter Four: This Is How We Lived: Housing Conditions, Usage of Living Space, and Interior Decoration
The general characteristics determining housing and the state of urban housing
Village houses, village dwellings
For those without a home: apartments for rent, beds to let, and work dormitories
Living in dire straits—slums, shantytowns, and ghettos
The general characteristics of changes in home interiors
Working-class and middle-class homes
Rural and peasant interiors
The interior world of Soviet-type housing estates
Summer and weekend homes
Chapter Five. “Well-dressed and Fashionable”: Changes in Clothing Styles, Habits, and Fashion
Need and puritanism: rural and urban styles of dress in the mid-twentieth century
Fashion and dressing habits during the state socialist period: changes in norms for everyday and formal occasions
Up-to-date fashion and the re-differentiation of apparel at the end of the century
Chapter Six: “We Ate, We Drank, We Filled Our Stomachs”: Nutrition, Eating, and Dietary Habits
The general characteristics of eating habits
From starvation to “goulash communism”
The years of “feeling full”
Abundance and shortages after the fall of the Iron Curtain


"Tibor Valuch’s publications have been key sources for many of us studying everyday life in Hungary, especially under state socialism. This rich collection of a variety of data and accompanying social analysis is now available for a wider, international audience that it clearly deserves. The rich research foundations of Everyday Life Under Communism will make it a key source for scholars of consumption in Eastern Europe."
"Tibor Valuch is anything but a newcomer to the field of consumption history of modern Hungary. His impressive oeuvre spans almost four decades of publishing activities, engaging profoundly with the material situation of different social classes, especially during state socialism, but also after the political change of 1989–90. While the bulk of his work has so far only been accessible to Hungarian- and, occasionally, German-speaking academia, Valuch’s newest book finally makes the essence of his research on everyday consumption practices in Hungary available to most scholars interested in consumption patterns in Eastern Europe. Based on an analysis filling more than 500 pages, this is a major and highly awaited undertaking."
"Tibor Valuch's extraordinary book provides a revealing window onto how ordinary citizens experienced historic transformations during the state-socialist period and in the decade after its collapse. It deftly orchestrates an astonishing array of materials to tell this story, from state initiatives to the details of the consumer culture emerging in everyday life."
"Anyone interested in the everyday life of workers, peasants and those belonging to the middle classes under communism will find a wealth of original insights in this inspiring book by Tibor Valuch, in particular regarding the emergence of a communist consumer society and the persisting social inequalities under communism. I find it particularly intriguing that he does not end his story with the end of communism but continues it into the post-communist era, which offers fascinating perspectives on the huge changes that in particular workers had to cope with in the period of massive deindustrialization that hit many industrial regions in East Central and Eastern Europe."