In the 1930s, the Stalinist regime promoted a campaign to establish “Soviet trade,” a non-capitalist system of “socialist” retailing. Policymakers also legitimized ordinary people’s desires for greater material comfort and increased consumption, and encouraged them to act as new Soviet consumers by engaging in new consumer behavior and official efforts to improve retail trade. This essay examines how the government’s mobilization of consumers helped to produce a new identity, the Soviet “citizen-consumer,” whose consumer practices facilitated the integration of consumers into the Soviet polity and the building of socialism. It also considers how this mobilization of Soviet consumers was similar to and different from the government mobilization of consumers in other countries during the interwar era. Whether in the Soviet Union, the United States, China, or Germany, the recognition of consumers as central actors in economic and political affairs had particular implications for women. The material culture of different societies, however, in conjunction with differing political and economic contexts, shaped the “rights” and “responsibilities” of these women “citizen-consumers.”
Material Culture in Russia from Peter the Great to Putin: Objects, Values, Identities
Randall, A. E. “The Emergence of the Soviet “Citizen-Consumer” in Comparative Perspective,” in Material Culture in Russia from Peter the Great to Putin: Objects, Values, Identities, ed. Graham Roberts (2017, Bloomsbury Publishers).