Is the Consumer's Voice Heard at All: Economic and Cultural Mediation Between Industry, Trade and Consumption (1945-1961)

  • Danijela Velimirović Department of Ethnology and Anthropology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade
trade, industry, consumers, economic mediation, cultural mediation, Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia


The introduction of socialism entailed a fundamental reconstruction of bourgeois trade, which was labelled as "profiteering", "speculative" and "black marketeering". Alternative new trade, based on "sound and nationwide" foundations, was supposed to successfully link production and consumption through the planned distribution of goods, thus contributing to general prosperity and a happier future. However, the introduction of self-management in 1950 revitalized the principle of supply and demand and decentralized supply. The stated aim of the new regulations and the newly introduced control bodies was to establish ethical, efficient and "more civilized" trade, and to satisfy consumers' needs and wants. Although trade was assigned the role of mediator between production and consumption, research shows that in the course of the "social life" of things, a mutually constitutive relationship between industry, trade and consumers was being established, by means of which multiple "mediation regimes" were effectuated (Cronin 2004). While the first half of the 1950s was marked by trade interventions seeking to redefine the design and quality of manufactured goods, the second half of the decade saw a new departure. Industry, aided by designers as professional interpreters of consumer markets, sought to influence commercial buyers' choices with a new supply of goods aligned with consumers' wants. Through legislative acts which enabled the establishment of a consumers' council, direct mediation of consumers' needs and wants was also legitimized. These multidirectional cultural and economic mediations between industry, trade and the consumer were successful to a lesser or greater extent. Admittedly, in certain economic situations, both trade and industry used their capacity for blackmail to protect their guild interests. The hidden mechanisms of influence and power inhibited the mediating action of various actors and contributed to systemic confusion. However, it is indisputable that representatives of industry and trade as economic and cultural actors, together with consumers, sought to channel wants into economically presented forms of demand, and to gradually deconstruct the mechanisms of "dictatorship over needs" characteristic of socialist economies.  


Download data is not yet available.


Appadurai, Arjun. 1986. „Introduction: Commodities and the Politics of Value”. In The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, edited by Arjun Appadurai, 3–63. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bartlett, Djurdja. 2004. „Let Them Wear Beige: The Petit-bourgeois World of Official Socialist Dress”. Fashion Theory 8 (2): 127‒164.
Bartlett, Djurdja. 2010. FashionEast: The Spectre that Haunted Socialism. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Burdije, Pjer. 2013. Distinkcija: društvena kritika suda. Podgorica: CID.
Callon, Michel, Cecile Meadel and Vololona Rabeharisoa. 2005. „The Economy of Qualities”. In The Technological Economy, edited by Andrew Barry and Don Slater, 28–50. London: Routledge.
Craik, Jennifer. 1993. The Face of Fashion: Cultural Studies in Fashion. London: Routledge.
Cronin, Anne. 2004. „Regimes of Mediation: Advertising Practitioners as Cultural Intermediaries?”. Consumption, Markets and Culture 7 (4): 349–369.
Entwistle, Joanne. 2006. „The Cultural Economy of Fashion Buying”. Current Sociology 54 (5): 704–724.
Feher, Ferenc, Agnes Heler i Đerđ Markuš. 1986. Diktatura nad potrebama. Beograd: Rad.
Gronow, Jukka and Sergey Zhuravlev. 2015. Fashion Meets Socialism: Fashion industry in the Soviet Union after the Second World War. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society.
Hessler, Julie. 2004. A Social History of Soviet Trade: Trade Policy, Retail Practices and Consumption 1917–1953. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Hilton, Marjorie. 2011. Selling to the Masses: Retailing in Russia, 1880–1930. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Ispán, Ágota Lidia. 2016. „ʽItʼs hard to do your duty here.ʼ Cultured Retail Trade in Hungary”. In Countryside and Communism in Eastern Europe. Perceptions, Attitudes and Propaganda, edited by Sorin Radu and Cosmin Budeancă, 562-593. Wien: LIT Verlag.
Kopitof, Igor. 2005. „Kulturna biografija stvari: komoditizacija kao proces”. Treći program 1/2 (125/126): 274–315.
Maguire, Jennifer Smith. 2014. „Bourdieu on Cultural Intermediaries”. In The Cultural Intermediaries: Reader, edited by Jennifer Smith Maguire and Julian Matthews, 15–24. London: Sage.
Marković, J. Predrag. 1996. Beograd između Istoka i Zapada (1948–1965). Beograd: Službeni list SRJ.
Miller, Daniel, Frank Mort, Michelle Lowe and Peter Jackson, eds. 2000. Commercial Cultures: Economies, Practices, Spaces. Oxford: Berg.
Patterson Hyder, Patrick. 2001. „The New Class: Consumer Culture under Socialism and the Unmaking of the Yugoslav Dream, 1945-1991”. Phd dissertation. The University of Michigan.
Pettinger, Lynne. 2004. „Brand Culture and Branded Workers: Service Work and Aesthetic Labour in Fashion Retail”. Consumption, Markets and Culture 7 (2): 163–184.
Pettinger, Lynne. 2014. „Clothing”. In The Cultural Intermediaries: Reader, edited by Jennifer Smith Maguire and Julian Matthews, 168–179. London: Sage.
Randall, Amy. 2008. The Soviet Dream World of Retail Trade and Consumption in the 1930s. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Slater, Don. 2002. „Capturing Markets from the Economists”. In Cultural Economy: Cultural Analysis and Commercial Life, edited by Paul Du Gay and Michael Pryke, 59–77. London: Sage.
Stitziel, Judd. 2005. Fashioning Socialism. Clothing, Politics and Consumer Culture in East Germany. Oxford: Berg.
Trajković, Dragoljub, Živan Stojković, Hranislav Rakić, Nenad Mihajlović i Slobodan Jovanović. 1984. Sto godina leskovačke tekstilne industrije (1884‒1984). Leskovac: Narodni muzej u Leskovcu.
Velimirović, Danijela. 2012. „Nov izgled za ʽnovu ženuʼ: uobličavanje ʽproleterskog ukusaʼ (1945–1951)”. Etnoantropološki problemi 7 (4): 935–955.
Velimirović, Danijela. 2016. „Ekonomija nestašice: proizvodnja, distribucija i potrošnja odeće u socijalističkoj Jugoslaviji u doba dirigovane ekonomije (1945–1951)”. Etnoantropološki problemi 11 (2): 539–557.
How to Cite
Velimirović, Danijela. 2021. “Is the Consumer’s Voice Heard at All: Economic and Cultural Mediation Between Industry, Trade and Consumption (1945-1961)”. Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 16 (1), 49–72.