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Why did the USSR not become a consumer society?

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Post 24 Dec 2009, 00:40
I've often heard that, in the sixties, the USSR was on the verge of becoming a consumer society. Their standard of living reached its peak in comparison to other countries, there was steady economic growth and people in general had everything they wanted. So why did this not continue? Why did the USSR start to lag behind again? Would it have been possible to maintain this level of development?
Post 24 Dec 2009, 04:00
Soviet economic planning was directed towards fulfilling demand. Comsumerism in the west is a consequence of over-production and its function is creating demand.
Post 24 Dec 2009, 04:03
But is progress even possible without creating demand to a certain degree? Wouldn't you keep producing always the same stuff without there being any kind of innovation?
Post 24 Dec 2009, 14:01
Soviet consumer goods productions always lagged behind the demand,but it did manage to cope with it to a some level:Soviet economy did manage to provide it's citizens with consumer goods:although the quality and quantity was low,design outdated and things were very expensive.Just look at some soviet kitchenware for example
Post 24 Dec 2009, 16:06
In the opinion of Zhores Medvedev in the early 1980s, the USSR was a relatively wealthy and developed consumer society, and its problems were those of a consumer society.

I can think of a few of the most serious impediments to the development of greater wealth among Soviet citizens:

* Most of the consumer goods which the USSR consumed were produced in the USSR itself, in Eastern Europe or in some other socialist bloc or friendly country (Cuba, India, Vietnam, etc). Since the USSR subsidized Eastern Europe in the form of natural resources at below market prices, and attained many of its other goods at above market prices (ex Cuban sugar) the effective costs of imported goods were higher.

* When it came to internal production, which accounted for most consumption, the price of goods again was increased from high transportation costs (few good ports, canals, rivers, extremely long distances), the high costs of winter (for construction, transportation, wages), and high wages subsidized in all kinds of ways (often through things like free daycare, special shops, leisure facilities, etc).

* Some percentage of industries remained plagued by poor quality, with the result that some goods were overproduced and underconsumed and thus the resources devoted to them wasted. This was gradually being improved upon with the establishment of agencies designed to evaluate the quality of consumer goods.

* Some goods were produced in adequate supply, but remained hard to find due to the practice of hoarding. The worst culprits were store managers and employees themselves, who would often even set up a business on the side to sell rare goods which were supposed to be sold in-store (obviously illegal but practiced on a mass level). Alternatively, there might be a case where a group of shoppers would find a large selection of some item, and then buy far more than they could use themselves in order to barter them for other things with their friends later.

* The military's share of ever-expanding heavy industrial production grew in the 1970s in comparison to the 1960s, due to Ustinov's push for more resources to modernize the army. The modernization was largely complete by the mid 1980s and spending went down slightly as a result. Still, for a period, that portion of heavy industry which could have been devoted to light industry was instead devoted to the military.
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