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Consumerism, Solidarity and Communism: Consumer Protection and the Consumer Movement in Poland

Malgorzata Mazurek and Matthew Hilton
Journal of Contemporary History
Vol. 42, No. 2 (Apr., 2007), pp. 315-343
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30036446
Page Count: 29
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Consumerism, Solidarity and Communism: Consumer Protection and the Consumer Movement in Poland
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Abstract

It has long been assumed that inattention to matters of consumption contributed to the collapse of the centrally planned economies of the Soviet bloc. In Poland, the party-state followed a productivist model which occasionally paid lip-service to the consumer but which ultimately focused on the dictates of production. Yet, by 1981, there existed an organized consumer movement (Federacja Konsumentów) which emerged amidst the broader challenges to the state associated with Solidarity. In the transition to democracy, a form of consumer agency developed in Poland concerned less with the relative benefits of capitalism or communism in supplying consumer wants and desires, and more with a less overtly ideological notion of rights and protection promoted at the global level. This article demonstrates that Polish consumers and their expert representatives, both within and beyond the state, were capable of exercising an agency more complex than the negative one of frustration and recourse to alternative forms of provisioning usually associated with a command economy

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