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Between Past and Future

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Sorin Antohi

III. Vulnerabilities of the New Democracies

10. Privatization as Transforming Persons

Katherine Verdery

Texte intégral

  • 1 Walter Adams and James W. Brock, Adam Smith Goes to Moscow: A Dialogue on Radical Reform (Princeto (...)

“Privatization is not simply a change in ownership;
it is a revolution in ways of thinking, acting, and governing.”1

  • 2 Ken Jowitt, “The Leninist Extinction”, in New World.Disorder: The Leninist Extinction (Berkeley an (...)

1In his brilliant essay “The Leninist Extinction”, Ken Jowitt defines 1989 as a “genesis” moment to be marked by creating, naming, and bounding in new ways2. As if to confirm his insight, many western policy-makers and academic advisors labeled this the moment of the “big bang”, of original creation, before which all was chaos. They and their counterparts in the former Soviet bloc even produced a sacred trinity apt for the times: marketization, privatization, democratization. These were at once three aspects of the deity and three forms in whose likeness the new world of postsocialism would take shape. With central plans, collective property, and one-party rule reduced to dust, creative modeling would bring forth a new society in the divine image of the West. Although the creative process was understood to be a complex one, there seemed to be extensive agreement that something like this trinity was necessary for exiting socialism.

2The present essay explores one element of this trinity—privatization—and asks what it would mean for privatization to “succeed”—a necessary step in assessing where a decade of privatizing has gotten us. I do not employ the sorts of measures used by economists but emphasize instead a broad understanding of what “property” is. Additionally, I spend more time thinking about what property was like under socialism than in asking what has happened to it lately, for I believe that this will help us to understand better the privatization process that is actually taking place. Although the result of my exploration is very inconclusive, I will be satisfied if I have impeded tendencies to assess privatization in a simple-minded way.

The Economists’ Privatization

  • 3 See, for example, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Transition Report 1998 (London (...)

3Those charged with effecting privatization began from the premise that socialist production was inefficient and wasteful due to the structure of ownership. They saw the transformation of ownership as essential to increasing productivity and the efficiency of factor allocation, enhancing motivation, and improving the quality of output. Privatization would create greater accountability by giving new owners stakes in outcomes; the result would be better performance. Benchmarks were developed for monitoring it, chief among them the percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP) that comes from activity in the private sector and the percentage of formerly state-owned enterprises (SOEs) or of total assets that have been privatized; the latter might be nuanced with indicators of enterprise restructuring3. While those who construct these indicators may express some doubt about the possibility of obtaining accurate figures on GDP, revenues from private-sector activity, or total value of state assets, their doubts do not prevent the offering of these figures, which then take on a spurious authority that leads us to think they tell us more than they do.

  • 4 Josef C. Brada, “Privatization is Transition—Or Is It?” Journal of Economic Perspectives 10 (1996) (...)
  • 5 See, for example, Andrew Walder, “Corporate Organization and Local Government Property Rights in C (...)
  • 6 Brada, “Privatization”, 81-4.

4Among economists, disagreement has emerged as some take issue with the certainties of their colleagues. Josef Brada and Peter Murrell, to name only two, have concluded that the manner of implementing privatization shows less concern for actual improvement of the economy than for imposing a certain standard ownership form4. These scholars argue that there can be significant gains in the economic performance of SOEs through measures that fall considerably short of privatizing them—a conclusion supported by work in China5. Moreover, such observers argue that the customary measures of “success” in privatization do not necessarily reveal what they claim to—failing, for example, to show how corporate governance is operating and if new owners have achieved control that is effective6.

  • 7 Roman Frydman, Kenneth Murphy, and Andrzej Rapaczynski, Capitalism with a Comrade’s Face (Budapest (...)
  • 8 Leslie Holmes, Post-Communism: An Introduction (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997), 211; David S (...)
  • 9 Hilary Appel, “Justice and the Reformation of Property Rights in the Czech Republic”, East Europea (...)
  • 10 Peter L. Berger, “The Uncertain Triumph of Democratic Capitalism”, Journal of Democracy 3 (1992): (...)

5If privatization is nonetheless the policy of choice, then it must be because it serves goals other than improving economic performance through changing ownership. These include promoting “creative destruction7”, increasing the legitimacy of new governments and encouraging a property-owning mentality8, bringing about ideological change9, and facilitating a shift to democratic politics by breaking up state monopolies10. I would add to this list a point to be explored further below: Privatization alters the very foundations of what “persons” are and how they are made. This partial listing of privatization’s effects begins to suggest how complex a phenomenon property is. As Adams and Brock claim in the statement that I have used at the head of this essay, transforming it is a “revolution in ways of thinking, acting, and governing”.

  • 11 Stark, “Recombinant Property”.

6This being the case, how is it possible to draw up a “balance sheet” after ten years? Revolutions in thinking and governing are difficult to operationalize and quantify. If the kinds of data (percentages of GDP, voting and trade statistics, etc.) that seem to tell us the most about these processes mislead by their specificity, then how can we take the temperature of a dying communism? Further compromising the utility of those indicators is David Stark’s argument that privatization indicators taking the firm as their unit are fundamentally misguided, for the essential unit of privatization is, instead, networks of firms11.” In consequence, I believe that most such quantifying efforts to assess how far the “transition” has proceeded are mistaken. I prefer instead to meditate on the notion of property and to show in this way that one cannot usefully measure the success of privatization.

7My argument runs as follows. Along with other anthropologists, I understand “property” as a construct that has something to do with “persons”, and the forms taken by both of these notions as somehow connected to the kind of social order in which they are located. I label the three ideal-typical social orders I am concerned with here (fully cognizant that my procedure holds innumerable problems) “fordism”, “socialism”, and “flexible specialization”. After briefly describing some person-property connections suited to the first and third of these, I discuss at greater length the status of property and person under socialism and then ask what it would mean to move from those arrangements to one of the other two—that is, what would “successful privatization” mean from this point of view. The argument is highly preliminary and schematic.

Property and Persons

8A canonical text for thinking about the nature of property is the fifth chapter of Locke’s Second Treatise of Government. Here he seeks to understand how individual appropriation can occur within a nature that God has provided for the use of all. Positing two forms, individual appropriation and collective ownership, he sees the latter as not opposed to the former but a condition of it. He goes on to argue that government originates in men’s agreement to regulate property in the context of a developing money economy. Among the features of his discussion of property that I see as particularly significant are his relating property to (1) a money economy; (2) forms of authority and government; (3) notions of “person”; and (4) ideas about morality. All these points have proved central to subsequent thinking about property.

9Locke sees the connection between property and money as the reason why men had to form governments: before money, men merely appropriated what they could use, but with money, they could accumulate without respect to their immediate needs. This possibility requires regulation, introducing a second element of Lockean property thinking: a presumed relation to authority—a state that regulates, adjudicates, and sanctions. Locke’s property world thus assumes a particular relation between state and citizens, a form of subjection to which property entitlements are central. In his work and that of subsequent political theorists, this becomes a connection between democracy and property: the property-owning citizen as the responsible subject of a democratic polity. (The ideological durability of this conception is evident in the language about privatization today.)

  • 12 John Locke, Two Treatises of Government (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1960), 287.
  • 13 See C.B. Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 19 (...)

10The kind of person this citizen will be emerges in part from Locke’s relating property with personliood. In his famous formulation that “every Man has a Property in his own Person12”, he establishes persons as autonomous, self-acting individuals whose ownership relation to themselves justifies appropriation through labor and ultimately sanctions accumulation beyond needs. Locke’s free individual, owning property in his person as well as in whatever he mixed his labor with, was an effective agent whose liberty was inextricably tied with both his individuality and his (self-)ownership. One does not have to agree with all of C.B. Macpherson’s argument about Locke and Hobbes to see in this formulation a blueprint for persons as “possessive individuals13”. This kind of person had further moral qualities embedded in notions of “propriety”— a notion central to Locke’s thinking about property; he often uses the two terms interchangeably. Placing property in a larger configuration of moral relations among men, between men and God, and between men and nature, Locke gives property relations an inevitable moral component: they are not just relations, but proper relations.

11Property emerges from Locke’s treatment, then, as a moral relation between people and things, mediated by people’s relations with each other through government. It begins as collective entitlement that gives way to private accumulation by people conceived as possessive individuals. These possessive individuals are a specific kind of person, constituted in relation to property. A signal innovation of early modern times was to apply this notion of person not just to individuals but to corporations. They became jural persons, endowed with agency and will like free individual owners.

  • 14 Margaret Jolly, “People and Their Products in South Pentecost”, in Vanuatu, ed. M.R. Allen (Sydney (...)
  • 15 Daniel de Coppet, “…Land Owns People”, in Contexts and Levels: Anthropological Essays on Hierarchy (...)
  • 16 Denis Numa Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1980); (...)
  • 17 Robert Lowie, “Incorporeal Property in Primitive Society”, Yale Law Journal 37 (1928): 551-638; Si (...)
  • 18 Compare Sharon Stephens, “Ideology and Everyday Life in Sami (Lapp) History”, in Discourse and the (...)
  • 19 Compare David G. Anderson, “Property as a Way of Knowing on Evenki Lands in Arctic Siberia”, in Pr (...)
  • 20 Marcel Mauss, The Gift (New York: W.W. Norton, 1990); Bronislaw Malinowski, Argonauts of the Weste (...)

12The connection between property and personhood is not limited to Locke’s formulation but appears as well in the philosophies of Kant, Hegel, and Marx, among many others. Moreover, the same connection appears, if rather differently, in literature on property from anthropology. This literature problematizes a number of assumptions left unquestioned in most other work on the topic, in part by seeing property less as a political and economic relation than as a sociocultural one. To begin with, in anthropological data one often finds that the separation of humans from “things” is considerably murkier than most North Americans would have it. For instance, land may be seen as part of people: “Land is not so much owned as part of one’s human substance14”; indeed, land may even own people15. Living and dead can merge, as when ancestors are seen as both part of land and part of living communities16. Also part of their ancestors, in some sense, are other kinds of things people can own, such as magical spells or names17. Animals, people, and land may be understood as forming an organic whole of interconnected beings—not a great chain of being but something more like a giant stew18. The difference between a man and a deer may be of exactly the same order as the difference between a man and a woman19, complicating the assessment of which is the “person” and which the “thing” in the property relation. Likewise, material objects exchanged as gifts may be thought to carry traces of the people who gave them, as in Mauss’s celebrated description of hau20. Some objects, indeed, so embody individual or group identities that to see them as “separate” seems erroneous.

  • 21 Myers, “Burning the Truck”, 1.
  • 22 Myers, “Burning the Truck”, 18.
  • 23 Myers, “Burning the Truck”, 34.
  • 24 Myers, “Burning the Truck”, 41.

13For example, Fred Myers uses the word “property” in his fascinating discussion of Pintupi forms of property and identity21, yet the way property (especially land) works in this case scarcely resonates with property notions familiar to us. In Myers’s analysis, property has to do, rather, with materializing the shared identity of groups and extending it through time22. “[P]eople’s joint relationship through time to a named place represents an aspect of an identity they share23”. Myers sees property here as a sign: establishing rights to “use” things is less important than is constituting ties through them with other people. Myers observes in closing, “[O]bjects, as property or not, have meanings for these people which cannot be limited to the analytic domains too often prescribed by our own Euroamerican cultures24”. Here, one might argue that the “person” being constituted through property is a supraindividual one: the clan or lineage whose identity is materialized in named places on the land. Myers’s views imply that just as there can be both individual and corporate “persons” in, say, the United States, “persons” can exist simultaneously at several levels of aggregation, including that of clan or lineage.

  • 25 Marilyn Strathern, “Subject or Object: Women and the Circulation of Valuables in Highlands in New (...)
  • 26 Strathern, “Subject or Object”, 13.
  • 27 Strathern, “Subject or Object”, 131.
  • 28 Strathern, “Subject or Object”, 161. In some of her writing Strathern resists the notion that one (...)

14Further thought on the nature of persons and their connection with property comes from the ethnography of India and Melanesia, particularly work by Marilyn Strathern. In contrast with the autonomous possessive individuals characteristic of the modern West, Strathern finds in Melanesia what she calls (borrowing from Marriott’s research in India) “dividuals”, social beings defined in terms of their social interdependencies rather than their autonomy25. Here, “persons are frequently constructed as the plural and composite site of the relationships that produced them26”; composed of diverse relations, they are not bounded and indivisible but multiple and partible. Whereas western persons tend to be defined as “owners”—owners of objects, their own person, their labor power, their culture, and so forth— persons in the New Guinea highlands are defined rather as microcosms of relations27. It follows that the place of objects differs considerably in the two instances: these Melanesians “do not have alienable items, that is, property, at their disposal; they can only dispose of items by enchaining themselves in relations with others28”.

  • 29 Stark, “Recombinant Property”, 1009.

15This kind of “enchaining”—the creation and reproduction of social interdependencies—relates to the idea of social obligations; it suggests modifying the heavy emphasis accorded the notion of rights as compared with obligations in thinking about property. A standard conception of property is to define it as a “bundle of rights”. This definition does not wholly neglect obligation but merely relegates it to the background, as if they were simply two sides of the same coin (my right with respect to you is your obligation to me). The rights of property, however, do not necessarily point one in the same direction as its obligations. In Stark’s words, “[A]ssets and liabilities have distinctive network properties29”. The notion of rights focuses attention on a particular kind of person—the autonomous, rights-bearing individual of liberal theory—rather than on the entire field of relations in which “dividuals” are enmeshed. The notion of obligations brings that wider field into view.

16From this kind of work on property, I formulate a broad conception of it, one that centers on its link with persons. I see property as one of a small set of cultural mechanisms (others might include kinship and religion) by which persons are made. Property makes persons by relating human beings to one another and to specific values (a word I use in preference to “things” so as to avoid all connotations of concreteness). These values may be concrete objects (houses, land, arrows, pigs), other beings (deer, spirits, ancestors), ideas or formulae (spells, recipes, novels, procedures), other kinds of abstractions of value (shares in a company), and so on. The kinds of relations set up with other people and with these values are not seen as just any old relations but proper relations: that is, property is heavily colored by normative ideas concerning morality.

17Among the ways it makes persons are by positing a relation in which they are implied and/or by materializing identities that are then seen as “belonging” to persons.

18An economistic version of this view might speak of property as a system according to which access to “resources” (values) is regulated by assigning persons rights in them relative to other persons. Such a version presupposes, however, that one has already passed through the process of defining (1) what count as “resources” and as the “persons” whose access to them will be regulated, and that resources already have object status separate from persons; (2) how those are bounded; (3) what morality underlies the relations between them; and (4) what power has established the rules of access and the prevailing notion of “rights”. This kind of definition also presupposes that “property” is necessarily about appropriation, whereas that may not always be the case. I thus prefer my more confusing and cumbersome formulation, because it requires one to do some work that otherwise will be omitted—and such omission will hide precisely what is most complex about the change in property regimes that is the privatization process. One might be tempted, for instance, to assume that individual firms are the unit of property transformation, or that “ownership” is the property relation of choice, rather than closely inspecting other kinds of property-relevant actors and relations or the many forms of obligation in which they may be anchored.

  • 30 Emily Martin, Flexible Bodies: Tracking Immunity in America from the Days of Polio to the Age of A (...)
  • 31 William M. Maurer, “Forget Locke? Dematerializing Property in Financial Services” (n.p.: 1998).
  • 32 David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989

19In introducing this section I mentioned ideas concerning property and person in which persons are construed as “possessive individuals”. I wish now to schematize the transformation of this set of notions as a preliminary to talking about property and persons in socialism. My schematization assumes that there is a dominant mode of personhood in specific times and places—an assumption I would not want to take very far but will adopt heuristically, for purposes of argument, and will modify below. If in the period of “fordist” capitalism a dominant model of person is the autonomous, self-acting individual (corporations count as individuals) defined by a private property relation that emphasizes owning, in the contemporary shift to “flexible specialization” that notion of person is supplemented by another, which I will call the “portfolio-managing individual”. I derive this concept from the work of Emily Martin on mental illness and the immune system30 and William Maurer on financial services31. I see the change in types of persons as linked to a shift in the “steering mechanism” of the global economy, from capital-inproduction to finance capital32. The rise of flexible specialization and of financial capital accompanies myriad other changes—among them, in the meaning of “nation”, the form of corporations, the nature of states, and the core elements of personality.

  • 33 Adolf A. Berle and Gardiner C. Means, The Modern Corporation and Private Property (Harcourt, Brace (...)
  • 34 Maurer, “Forget Locke?” 2. Maurer adds that crucial to the new emphasis on risk is a heightened ro (...)

20For some time now, what increasingly matters with corporate wealth is not simply ownership of shares but their control or management. Corporate profits no longer go mainly to the owners of property but to those who manage it33. (In this sense, socialist societies, with their collective ownership of means of production managed by the party-state, merely carried to an extreme certain tendencies of twentieth-century capitalism: the separation of management from ownership.) Landownership or the wealth derived from successful manufacturing contributes far less power than does one’s relation to capital markets. Scholars such as Maurer see alongside this a thoroughgoing change in conceptions of property as it becomes less a matter of rights to be claimed and more a question of risk profiles to be managed. This implies a modification in the role of state authorities: formerly guarantors of property rights, they now become arbiters of risk and hedges against it. Their relation to citizens also changes as subjects cease to be bearers of rights and become instead bearers of risk34.

  • 35 See Martin, Flexible Bodies; “Colonizing Minds;” and Flexible Minds.
  • 36 Maurer, “Forget Locke?”
  • 37 We might recall here the U.S. government’s interventions in business crises, such as its bailouts (...)

21How “persons” are conceptualized might be expected to change accordingly. The Lockean person is very different from the kinds of individuals now emerging in advanced capitalist states: their status as “possessive individuals” matters less than their status as holders of a “portfolio “ of assets and liabilities. (Thus, it seems that individual persons no longer serve as the model for corporate persons but corporations as the model for individuals.) Among the items in this portfolio are their health or personality traits or pension plans, which they must competently manage (for example, by proper diet, exercise, therapy, medication, financial advice, and other good habits like not smoking.)35 Persons of this kind are still envisioned as effective actors, their efficacy residing in their managerial rather than in their possessive attributes. The measure of these managerial capacities is no longer bankruptcy, reflecting their ownership status, but insurability and/or ratings such as Moody’s, reflecting their level of risk36. Such persons (including corporate ones) increasingly look to the state not to guarantee their property rights but to mediate their exposure to risk37.

  • 38 Dunn, “Privatization and Personhood”.
  • 39 Stark, “Recombinant Property”.

22The question to be posed, then, is this: if privatization is more than simply changing ownership but consists at its most fundamental level of remaking persons38, what relation of property and persons was characteristic of socialism and might now be subject to a process of change? Do privatization programs connect more with the “possessive individuals” of earlier capitalism or rather with the “portfolio-managing” persons of flexible specialization? To consider this question, I will now turn to the property regime of socialism, using the terms laid out above to guide my characterization. I emphasize, in particular, how fixed socialist property created supraindividual persons such as “the whole people” and “the collective”, while exchanges of objects from socialism’s circulating fund by managers participating in a far-flung system of obligations consolidated the reality of networks as actors and of persons as embedded rather than autonomous. For this latter point I build on the work of David Stark on networks in the postsocialist period39.

Property in Socialism40

  • 40 To speak of “property in socialism” obviously reifies and homogenizes a reality that was much more (...)
  • 41 My sources for this discussion, in addition to interviews with lawyers, judges, and notaries in Ro (...)
  • 42 I might note that these subdivisions into subjects and objects of property are not simply my own a (...)

23A property regime is a cultural system, a system of social relations, and a system of power: it consists of a set of categories, the meanings of which are peculiar to that system and relate to the organization of both power and social relations within it. In thinking about property in socialism, I begin by asking: What were some of the categories of socialist property regimes?41 The 1977 Soviet Constitution states: “Socialist ownership of the means of production…constitutes the foundation of the economic system of the USSR”. This statement posits two things and intimates a third: an object of property (means of production), a property relation (ownership), and a potential subject (socialist owners in the USSR). Each implies a larger contrastive field. As possible objects of property, the category “means of production”—further subdivided into fixed and circulating funds—is contrasted with means of consumption42. These property objects entered into different sets of property relations (ownership, control, use, etc.), which pertained to alternative possible subjects: the state, socialist cooperatives, other (non-producing) socialist organizations, and individual persons as well as ministries and commissions, state-owned enterprises, and central, regional, and local administrations. For purposes of exercising property rights, most of these subject categories were considered jural persons; only the first four of them, however, were privileged to serve as owners, though they were not privileged to own the same kinds of things. The remaining types of property subjects were largely limited to relations of control and use, exercised specifically with respect to state property.

  • 43 This is not to say that other kinds of actors do not exist, of course; in order to be socially eff (...)

24Let me dwell further upon these subjects of property. In discussing property in the previous section, I observed that as a person-forming mechanism property often creates social groups and actors by objectifying and hence unifying them in some specific relation to values. To put this in more economistic language, if property involves regulating access to valued resources, this entails specifying the kinds of actors for whom access is to be regulated. Does access go to individuals, households, corporations, clans, municipal governments, or actors of some other type? Naming actors helps to constitute them as real in the sense that because they are recognized in law and practice, both resources and legal mediation to uphold their claims become readily available to them43.

  • 44 I use the term “cooperative” in referring to the category that includes both agricultural and nona (...)
  • 45 This relationship is not one of simple representation—that is, the party-state represents the peop (...)

25In naming its principal actors, socialist law specified these in clear relation to property—that is, one could say “property” was the basis for making those actors real. Socialism thus institutionalized the construct “ownership” at its very heart, in the form of four recognized property types relating to three principal property subjects defined as owners. The four property types were state property, cooperative property44, personal property, and private property, each having its own legal regime; the three owners were the state, cooperatives, and individuals. Technically speaking, it was not “the state” but another abstract entity, “the people as a whole” or “the whole people” who owned state property; the state (better said, the party-state) served merely as the embodiment45 of that collective actor, managing state property in the people’s interest. We see here the division between ownership and management so characteristic of socialist property regimes—a characteristic they share with corporations in advanced capitalism. In all Soviet-type socialist societies, the great bulk of valued resources was held in state property.

  • 46 Lupan and Reghini, Drept civil, 119.

26The categories of state and cooperative property together made up the larger category of socialist property. This included nearly all society’s major means of production and was by far the most important property category; the party center intended over time that its two components be merged into the single category of state property. In “dialectical relation” with socialist property46 was the category of personal property, consisting primarily of objects of consumption. Laws constrained their use to keep people from turning them into means of production—for instance, one could own one’s car but was prohibited from using it as a taxi to generate income; one could own a house, but not a second house, for that would permit income from rental.

27The fourth property type, private property, consisted of the means of production owned and used by petty-commodity producers such as un-collectivized peasants and tradespeople. Viewed as a residue of the bourgeois order, this type was of minimal importance in all but Poland and Yugoslavia, where agriculture was never collectivized and where private property-owning cultivators formed the large majority of the rural population. In all socialist systems, private property was slated for eventual elimination. Not included in that category were the misnamed “private plots” of collective farmers: they formed, rather, part of the socialist property of collective farms, which assigned their members use-rights to it.

  • 47 Butler, Soviet Law, 179.
  • 48 These are the subjects of ownership in other systems, such as those described by Max Gluckman, Ess (...)

28This set of categories names for us three distinct types of actors, whom we can thus see as constituted by the property regime: “the state” (or “the whole people”), holder of state socialist property-rights; “cooperatives”, holders of rights to cooperative property; and “individuals”, holders of rights to personal and private property. It is important to note that these actors are defined as jural subjects precisely by their property status; that is, they were made “real” actors by being made subjects of property. As Butler puts it: “Juridical persons are those organizations which possess separate property, [and] may acquire property and personal non-property rights and bear duties in their own name47…” Thus, jural personhood is a function of property status. Defined as a jural person, an entity could allocate rights to specific, recognized subunits. For instance, “the state” could parcel out rights to use its property both to cooperatives and to other lower-level actors, such as “state firms”, “socialist organizations” (such as the trade unions or the Councils of National Minorities), or lower-level territorial units such as “republics” (in the Soviet case) or “counties” and “municipal governments”. One might contrast this set of recognized actors with others that could conceivably be recognized as property-holding entities but in these systems were not: households, lineages, clans, royalty, or corporations48.

  • 49 Campeanu, Stalinist Social Order, 41,

29It is one thing to “name” social actors as does socialist property law (and not it alone), but it is quite another to constitute them as effective actors in practice. While the categories of property law tell us something about how the party authorities hoped to populate the economic landscape of production and appropriation, we need the niceties of social process to appreciate how property in socialism worked. For example, in practice, state property did not make a unified, real actor from the abstract concept “the state” or “the whole people”: rather, it underpinned the dominant position of the communist party. Simply positing the unitary character of the fund of socialist property as pertaining, to “the whole people” could not give social reality to that construct, for no way was found to make either “the state” or “the whole people” an effective actor in practice. As Campeanu puts it: “For [public property] to become real in economic terms, the property owned had first to become manageable… [N]one of the presumptive natural agents of ownership, e.g., the social classes, were capable of assuming that role. As a consequence, a surrogate agent, the state, replaced them, yet it too was unable to exercise ownership…Thus the practical day-to-day routines called into question the capacity of a weak state to exercise a strong monopoly49”.

  • 50 Heller, “Anticommons”, 629.

30How, then, did state ownership work? What sorts of entities were constituted in practice to manage the task of putting all those state-owned means of production into production? And what sorts of social relations facilitated their doing so? Answers to these questions come more readily if one stops asking about ownership per se—which is far from the only way of organizing property—and looks instead at the distribution of various kinds of rights and relations. In socialist property regimes, the most important relationship, after the prerogatives of the state as owner, was based in the right of direct (or operational) administration (I will refer to this as “administrative rights”). By means of granting administrative rights, the state retained its claim to supreme ownership but exercised that ownership by allocating use and administrative rights downward to smaller entities. It assigned parts of the property of “the whole people” to lower levels in the bureaucratic hierarchy. Recipients of these rights could further parcel them out to others still lower down the scale. Such allocations of administrative rights enabled managing and controlling the state property allocated to lower units by central plans. As Heller puts it: “Instead of assigning an owner to each object, socialist law created a complex hierarchy of divided and coordinated rights in the objects it defined…The law integrated ownership of physical assets within overlapping state structures, often linking upward from a state enterprise, to a group of similar enterprises, to the local and then central offices of a ministry responsible for that branch of industry50”.

  • 51 Feldbrugge, Russian Law, 231
  • 52 This fact vastly complicates the assignment of ownership rights during privatization. For example, (...)

31The system of multiple and overlapping administrative rights over the unitary fund of state property permitted myriad transactions to occur without the institutions and forms associated with changes in ownership, such as mortgages or sale contracts51. For instance, if one firm made a contract with another to deliver its product (say, a piece of machinery), the machinery was at all times state property. Its owner did not change; all that changed was who held the power of administrative rights over it. Thus, the director of the first firm held the power to dispose of the product to the second firm (a power common to ownership relations), but ownership did not change thereby. A major consequence of these practices was that the boundaries within the unitary fund of property became blurred, and objects might move among numerous persons exercising rights to them that were akin to ownership rights but were not consecrated as such52.

  • 53 See, for example, Armstrong, Soviet Law of Property; Jadwiga Staniszkis, The Dynamics of the Break (...)

32Because the units who received administrative rights thereby entered as jural persons into direct relation with the means of production, their managers could come dangerously close to infringing on the state’s property rights. The legendary hoarding, dissimulation, plan-bargaining, and other manipulations of state property by these managers produced internal contradictions in the notion of “the state” as a unitary actor and “state property” as an object of coherent planning. Indeed, the inability of the political center to keep these actors in check and their gradually increased autonomy in consequence were critical elements in socialism’s transformation53. For this reason, it would be inadvisable to see administrative rights as an insignificant form of property relation. Their exercise in practice constituted state firms as powerful actors—particularly the directors of these firms, organized into robust networks that themselves became real social actors, as the aftermath of 1989 has amply shown.

  • 54 János Kornai, Economics of Shortage (Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishers, 1980).

33How did directors of state firms make use of the administrative rights they held to state property? How did behavior within socialist organizations alter the contours of legal provisions, giving socialist property flexibility and producing a working property regime, the consequences of which affect the process of exiting from that system? What was the relation between formal categories and categories of actual use? How did the processes of socialist property constitute persons? The framework necessary to answering these questions comes from Kornai’s notion of the economy of shortage54; its characteristics included incessant demand for investment on the part of firms, efforts to bargain the plan with central authorities, and widespread hoarding and bartering of raw materials for production.

  • 55 In addition, managers had an obligation to pay their workers, but this obligation was less signifi (...)
  • 56 Compare C. A. Gregory, Gifts and Commodities (London: Academic Press, 1982); Marilyn Strathern, Th (...)

34Plans, targets, hoarding, and bartering all contributed to a far-flung system of obligations through which production took place within the confines of socialist property. This system of obligations—rather than just the patterning of property (administrative) rights—formed the core of socialism’s property regime. The obligations were of several kinds. First was what we might call “socialist tribute”: obligatory deliveries of the goods that firms produced upward to state procurement centers in fulfillment of the plan. Second were the obligations entailed in barter: if I give up inputs you need today, you have an obligation to provide from your inputs what I may need tomorrow. Because managers who did not know how to manage this sort of reciprocity would soon find themselves unable to mobilize enough inputs for production, the obligations of barter within the formal economy were highly binding. Third were reciprocal obligations of a more general sort that helped to lubricate the social relations already described; they involved gifts to both superiors and status equals, and their benefits might include looser plan targets, special bonuses, access to raw materials otherwise hard to obtain, and generalized bureaucratic goodwill. Further reinforcing these social relations of production might be other kinds of ties (kinship, godparenthood, birthplace, university class, etc.55). In my opinion, the far-flung system of exchange involving gifts and favors justifies seeing socialism as a form of “gift economy56”. What we see in the workings of socialist property was part of a much wider set of reciprocal and largely nonmonetized exchanges characteristic of these societies.

  • 57 Dunn, “Privatization and Personhood”.

35This observation is more significant than it might seem if we recall Strathern’s characterization of the nature of “persons” in a gift economy as not autonomous possessive individuals but deeply embedded in interdependent relations. Strathern calls these persons “dividuals”, but I find this term confusing and will speak instead of “network-embedded actors” (a term that can incorporate single and multiple human beings). In work on Poland, Elizabeth Dunn has explored the tension that privatization has introduced into concepts of personhood, as Poland’s new entrepreneurs or western managers strive to free themselves of the toils of obligations and to treat their workers as autonomous individuals—an attitude the workers fiercely resist.57 Although Dunn focuses on enterprise governance rather than on property relations, her argument is very apt for thinking about personhood within socialist property, and I adopt it here in order to explore the nature of personhood for different groups of people in socialism, active in its different property forms.

  • 58 This statement should be modified with respect to the identity-creating aspects of consumption ite (...)

36The “persons” who participated in widespread exchanges—both individuals and firms—constituted robust networks: that is, their personhood rested on their embeddedness in social relations, not on their autonomy. Not just socialist production but all facets of daily life depended on one’s ability to mobilize contacts. These realities implied a socialist “person” very different from the autonomous, self-actualizing, possessive individual characteristic of capitalism. Socialist persons were, rather, embedded; instead of being self-actualizing individuals, they were nodes in a system of dependencies—dependent upon one another and upon the paternalist state. The selfhood of these network-embedded actors was realized not in accumulating things but in accumulating people with whom to exchange things and favors58. We might say their personhood depended on their “network properties”.

37Although the workings of the socialist system make everyone into this kind of person, we might hypothesize that the various forms of property in socialism introduced some variety into personhood as well. Network-embedded actors were par excellence the person-form of activity within state property; they were both single human beings such as enterprise managers and entire networks of firms, all enmeshed in exchange relations necessary to realizing production. The networks might be very extensive and more or less unbounded. Social relations within cooperative property, by contrast, may have been smaller in scope and more closely bounded (being the sets of resources collectively donated, worked, and increased by their particular members rather than by “the whole people”). Even though the managers of cooperative property also operated within networks of obligation, its special nature perhaps individualized it more and constituted its personhood as more limited. In the remaining two categories—personal and private property—we find the possibility of persons more closely resembling the “possessive individuals” of capitalism. Here, ownership relations prevailed over those of administration and use; here, as well, popular resistance to socialism took the form of identity-creation through consumption of personal property, even as the objects necessary for this came from operating within networks of exchange.

  • 59 Heller, “Anticommons”, 631.
  • 60 Heller, “Anticommons”, 631.

38I am suggesting, then, that socialism produced mixed forms of per-sonhood, along a gradient that ran from primarily network-embedded actors within the state sector to primarily possessive individuals in the domain of personal and private property. This may offer a way of talking about two interlinked phenomena: the greater ease and seemingly better performance of small-firm privatization, as opposed to that of medium and large enterprises. Heller, for example, observes: “[T]he more protection property received under socialist law, the less successful its performance has been in a new market economy59”. Concerned with how rights should be “bundled” in order to achieve a workable property regime, he offers the working hypothesis that “private property emerges more successfully in resources that begin transition with a single owner holding a near-standard bundle” of property rights60. This interpretation assumes a particular kind of already-constituted person—the possessive individual who knows how to “hold” a bundle of property rights—and posits the resource (or set of them, perhaps the firm) as the unit of analysis. If one took, rather, the property form and its associated “persons” as the unit of analysis, one might offer a different interpretation: the property forms that came closest to constituting possessive individuals are the ones easiest to transform now, and these are not the ones characteristic of state property, which constituted a unitary fund, not a collection of separately propertied entities. Collective farms and trade cooperatives, by contrast, were defined more fully as individual entities by the kind of property relation that constituted them; so also, a forteriori, were the holders of personal and private property. It thus makes sense that privatization involving state firms has proceeded more slowly than small privatization: the smaller entities were more likely to have been already constituted as possessive individuals, while the larger ones were mere nodes in far-flung networks of exchange. This does not mean, however, that the larger ones are inapt subjects of a new property-regime, as I will now propose.

Privatization Revisited

  • 61 Stark, “Recombinant Property”; David Stark and László Bruszt, Postsocialist Pathways: Transforming (...)
  • 62 Stark, “Recombinant Property”, 995.

39I have been arguing for a conception of property that emphasizes its person-making features and have identified in the workings of socialism’s property forms a dominant person-making principle (network-embedded-ness) and a subordinate one (a kind of possessive individualism), as well as different kinds of actors constituted by the different property forms. In closing, I wish to explore the implications of network-embedded actors for privatization. I have argued above that owing to widespread ties of obligation and reciprocity, networks themselves were made into a kind of social actor—and that actor, rather than the SOE, was the true analogue of the corporation-as-person of capitalism. This, it seems to me, is the insight David Stark develops in his research on networks of cross-ownership in Hungary since the mid-1980s61. “[T]he collapse of the formal structures of the socialist regime does not result in an institutional vacuum. Instead, we find the persistence of routines and practices, organizational forms and social ties, that can become assets [and] resources…in the postsocialist period62”. Analyzing what he calls “recombinant property” as an emergent property form in Hungary, Stark draws attention to the networks of firms that collaborate to reorganize their assets while finding ways of shaking off their liabilities onto the remnants of the state. In consequence, he concludes that property transformation should target not individual firms but networks of firms.

40I note three implications of Stark’s argument. First, it destroys at one stroke the validity of using percentages of SOEs that have become private firms as an indicator of privatization’s success. This point is so obvious that it requires no further elaboration. Second, it provides a counterargument to Heller’s views about postsocialism as a “tragedy of the anticommons”. He seeks to explain the underuse of certain public goods, such as storefront properties in Moscow. Drawing an analogy with literature on the “tragedy of the commons”, overused because no one has rights to exclude others, Heller identifies in postsocialism a “tragedy of the anticommons”, resulting when multiple participants have multiple rights that lead to everyone’s being able to exclude uses proposed by everyone else; in consequence, the resource is underused. His solution to this problem is to allocate bundled property rights to sole owners, who will be sure the resource is used.

41But anticommons property of this kind has neither the same roots in socialist property law nor the same persons/actors as the “successfully” performing single-bundled cases just mentioned. Like the champions of privatization, Heller concentrates on the rights held by individuals; what is decomposing, however, is socialist property managed collectively within networks of managers and firms, some of which may hold a workable bundle of property rights as a network. We might then see the problem to be solved not as how to bundle rights and assign them to individuals but, rather, as how to corporatize and bound existing networks. This solution might, in fact, produce entities better able to compete with the principal actors in global capitalism, which do not appear to be individuals holding clear bundles of rights but the increasingly complex networks we know as “multinationals”. Stark suggests a related possibility in arguing that the “recombinant property” formed by networks of firms is adaptive in the short to medium run, because it enables transferring liabilities to the declining state sector and keeping control of the network’s assets.

42I would further extend Stark’s suggestion, then (and third), to argue that it was precisely these skills that socialism’s managers developed before, in exercising their administrative rights. Managing property, the ownership rights of which lay elsewhere (theoretically dispersed across “the whole people”), those managers became expert at what Stark points to for present day Hungary: separating assets from liabilities and trying to shed the latter onto the state. Some were so successful that they eventually turned the use of socialist property to their own account through large-scale, network-based forms of underground factory production that let the state pay the costs while they lined their pockets. This same division between ownership (dispersed masses of shareholders) and (corporate) management also characterizes modern capitalist corporations; but what is being managed now is risk, on the argument summarized earlier in this paper. In managing risk, capitalist firms now look to states to mediate their exposure to risk rather than to guarantee ownership rights. One could say that this too was precisely what socialist managers were good at doing—and that it was their quality as network-embedded actors that facilitated their doing so.

43Given the way that networks can help to spread and absorb risk, it is interesting that privatization aims precisely to bound the principal economic actors, peeling away the layers of social embeddedness and exposing them to the hazards of markets in which they will therefore be less able to compete. Moreover, just as capitalist states increasingly serve to underwrite risks (the bailout of the Long-Term Capital Management hedge fund is only the latest example), privatization programs insist on dismantling state property and eliminating state subsidies to failing SOEs. That is, they insist on making formerly socialist states incapable of mediating risk for firms.

44Alongside this, and despite their relentless focus on ownership, some. privatization programs have institutionalized in a different way the accomplishments of Stark’s Hungarian directors, separating assets from liabilities by placing tremendous funds of resources in holding companies under the management of international accounting firms. The “owners” are socialism’s former citizens holding vouchers that entitle them to lose their certificates’ entire value, while the managers continue to collect salaries and commissions. Privatization has thus appropriated management and assets while socializing risk in the complete absence of insurance for those who own the managed assets. Yet the rhetoric is of “possession”, ownership—of persons constituted by owning rather than by managing, of writing bankruptcy law rather than shoring up the ability of formerly socialist states to help firms hedge their risks.

  • 63 Michael Burawoy and János Lukács, The Radiant Past: Ideology and Reality in Hungary’s Road to Capi (...)
  • 64 Dunn, “Privatization and Personhood”.

45I am suggesting a parallel with Burawoy’s argument concerning the potential aptness of the forms developed under socialism for the new “brave new world” of market competition63. Burawoy showed that workers in socialism had to behave in exactly the fashion that western managers would later promote under flexible specialization’s “total quality management”: working in teams, rapidly readjusting to variations in the production process with minimal guidance from middle-level management. Following Burawoy, Dunn shows that the introduction of total quality management into the Polish firm she studied paradoxically brought with it efforts to break up these team-based production processes and individualize workers through complex processes of performance assessment64. Similarly, I am implying that socialism’s property regime may have produced notions of person and forms of behavior well-adapted to competing in the world of flexible specialization; the emphasis of privatization programs on ownership questions and breaking up the networks of socialist management, however, threatens these very adaptive forms. Is privatization somehow striving to create in the former socialist world, then, the very kinds of property and persons that the first world is abandoning, while breaking down socialist forms that might serve better? Will today’s creation of obsolescent “possessive individuals” be tomorrow’s reason for explaining why the Second World did not, after all, make the transition to markets and prosperity? Is privatization producing, in other words, yet another round of uneven development in the form of these divergently propertied persons?

46To ask this question is to show that measuring the “success” of privatization a decade after 1989 is an exceedingly complex proposition. Quite aside from the problems of what one is to measure and how, one might begin by wondering: Success from whose point of view?

Notes

1 Walter Adams and James W. Brock, Adam Smith Goes to Moscow: A Dialogue on Radical Reform (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 150.

2 Ken Jowitt, “The Leninist Extinction”, in New World.Disorder: The Leninist Extinction (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1992).

3 See, for example, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Transition Report 1998 (London: European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 1998), Table 2.1. Thanks to Jan Svejnar and Don Kachman of the Davidson Institute, University of Michigan, for providing me with these data.

4 Josef C. Brada, “Privatization is Transition—Or Is It?” Journal of Economic Perspectives 10 (1996); and Peter Murrell, “What Is Shock Therapy? “What Did It Do in Poland and Russia?” Post-Soviet Affairs 9 (1993

5 See, for example, Andrew Walder, “Corporate Organization and Local Government Property Rights in China”, in Changing Political Economies: Privatization in Post- Communist and Reforming Communist States, ed. Vedat Milor (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 1994).

6 Brada, “Privatization”, 81-4.

7 Roman Frydman, Kenneth Murphy, and Andrzej Rapaczynski, Capitalism with a Comrade’s Face (Budapest: Central European University Press, 1998),

8 Leslie Holmes, Post-Communism: An Introduction (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997), 211; David Stark, “Recombinant Property in East European Capitalism”, American Journal of Sociology 101:4 (1996

9 Hilary Appel, “Justice and the Reformation of Property Rights in the Czech Republic”, East European Politics and Society 9:1 (1995); Verdery 1994

10 Peter L. Berger, “The Uncertain Triumph of Democratic Capitalism”, Journal of Democracy 3 (1992): 7-16; Ellen Comisso, “Property Rights, Liberalism, and the Transition from ‘Actually Existing’Socialism”, East European Politics and Societies 5:1 (1991): 162-88.

11 Stark, “Recombinant Property”.

12 John Locke, Two Treatises of Government (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1960), 287.

13 See C.B. Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962). Macpherson’s views have been subjected to criticism by such scholars as J.G.A. Pocock, Virtue, Commerce, and History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985); Kirstie McClure, Judging Rights: Lockean Politics and the Limits of Consent (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996); and James Tully, An Approach to Political Philosophy: Locke in Contexts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993

14 Margaret Jolly, “People and Their Products in South Pentecost”, in Vanuatu, ed. M.R. Allen (Sydney: Academic Press, 1981), 269.

15 Daniel de Coppet, “…Land Owns People”, in Contexts and Levels: Anthropological Essays on Hierarchy, eds. R.H. Barnes, Daniel de Coppet, and R.J. Parkin (Oxford: JASO, 1985), 78-90.

16 Denis Numa Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1980); Nancy M. Williams, The Yolungu and their Land: A System Land Tenure and the Fight for its Recognition (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1986); Fred Myers, “Burning the Truck and Holding the Country”, in We Are Here: Politics of Aboriginal Land Tenure, ed. Edwin N. Wilmsen (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989).

17 Robert Lowie, “Incorporeal Property in Primitive Society”, Yale Law Journal 37 (1928): 551-638; Simon Harrison, Stealing People’s Names: History and Politics in a Sepik River Cosmology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

18 Compare Sharon Stephens, “Ideology and Everyday Life in Sami (Lapp) History”, in Discourse and the Social Life of Meaning, ed. Phyllis Pease Chock and J. Wyman (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1986).

19 Compare David G. Anderson, “Property as a Way of Knowing on Evenki Lands in Arctic Siberia”, in Property Relations, ed. C.M. Hann (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

20 Marcel Mauss, The Gift (New York: W.W. Norton, 1990); Bronislaw Malinowski, Argonauts of the Western Pacific (London: Routledge, 1922).

21 Myers, “Burning the Truck”, 1.

22 Myers, “Burning the Truck”, 18.

23 Myers, “Burning the Truck”, 34.

24 Myers, “Burning the Truck”, 41.

25 Marilyn Strathern, “Subject or Object: Women and the Circulation of Valuables in Highlands in New Guinea”, in Women and Property, Women as Property, ed. Renee Hirschon (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988); compare Elizabeth Dunn, “Privatization and Personhood: Transforming Work in Postsocialist Poland” (Ph.D. diss., John Hopkins University, 1998).

26 Strathern, “Subject or Object”, 13.

27 Strathern, “Subject or Object”, 131.

28 Strathern, “Subject or Object”, 161. In some of her writing Strathern resists the notion that one can apply the term “property” to what she finds in New Guinea, to the extent that “property” requires objectification (Strathern, “Subject or Object”). Others, however, would rather expand the property concept—diminishing the requirement of subject-object separation—so as to include more cases for comparative analysis (see, for example, A. Irving Hallowell, “The Nature and Function of Property as a Social Institution”, in Culture and Experience (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1955).

29 Stark, “Recombinant Property”, 1009.

30 Emily Martin, Flexible Bodies: Tracking Immunity in America from the Days of Polio to the Age of AIDS (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995); Emily Martin, “Colonizing Minds: Managing the Mental in Late 20th Century U.S.” (paper presented at CSST Seminar, University of Michigan, 1997); Emily Martin, Flexible Minds (Princeton: Princeton University Press, forthcoming).

31 William M. Maurer, “Forget Locke? Dematerializing Property in Financial Services” (n.p.: 1998).

32 David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989

33 Adolf A. Berle and Gardiner C. Means, The Modern Corporation and Private Property (Harcourt, Brace and World, 1932).

34 Maurer, “Forget Locke?” 2. Maurer adds that crucial to the new emphasis on risk is a heightened role for insurance against risk. I have found Maurer’s ideas on the place of risk very helpful in thinking about new concepts of property and person.

35 See Martin, Flexible Bodies; “Colonizing Minds;” and Flexible Minds.

36 Maurer, “Forget Locke?”

37 We might recall here the U.S. government’s interventions in business crises, such as its bailouts of Chrysler and the Savings and Loan Industry. Both these actions effectively made the entire U.S. population bear the risks these industries had not successfully negotiated.

38 Dunn, “Privatization and Personhood”.

39 Stark, “Recombinant Property”.

40 To speak of “property in socialism” obviously reifies and homogenizes a reality that was much more complex, with variations occurring in both space and time. Since this is not an essay about socialist property, however, I offer a schematic, condensed account, aimed at clarifying the problems of making “private property” from the property relations of socialism. My account is drawn from literature on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe; I make no claims for its applicability to socialism in other parts of the world.

41 My sources for this discussion, in addition to interviews with lawyers, judges, and notaries in Romania, are George M. Armstrong, The Soviet Law of Property: The Right to Control Property and the Construction of Communism (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1983); Salvator Brădeanu, Petre Marcia, and Lucian Stângu, Tratat de drept cooperatist-agricol, 2 vols. (Bucuresti: Ed. Academiei Republicii Socialiste Romania, 1968); W.E. Butler, Soviet Law (London: Butterworths, 1998); Pavel Campeanu, The Genesis of the Stalinist Social Order (Armonk, N.J.: M.E. Sharpe, 1988); F.J.M. Feldbrugge, Russian Law: The End of the Soviet System and the Role of Law (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1993); Michael Heller, “The Tragedy of the Anticommons: Property in the Transition from Marx to Markets”, Harvard Law Review 111:3 (1998): 621-88; Ernest Lupan and Ionel Reghini, Drept civil: Drepturi reale princi¬ pale (Cluj: Universitatea Babeş-Bolyai, Facultatea de Drept., 1997); and Daniela Păunescu, Drept cooperatist (Bucharest: Universitatea din Bucureşti, Facultatea de Drept., 1974).

42 I might note that these subdivisions into subjects and objects of property are not simply my own analytic grouping but that of the legal texts I have consulted.

43 This is not to say that other kinds of actors do not exist, of course; in order to be socially effective, however, they have to work harder, struggling to fit themselves into the confines of the established categories. For instance, households were not jural persons in socialism, nor were they instituted in relation to property. A household could not go to court as such; it could go only in the person of one of its members. But to do so might entail disagreements among household members as to which of potentially conflicting interests within the household were to be represented.

44 I use the term “cooperative” in referring to the category that includes both agricultural and nonagricultural enterprises of nonstate-type together. When I wish to speak of nonstate agricultural enterprises, I use the term collective, as in “collective farm”, rather than speaking of “cooperative farms”. Even though the latter is the better translation for those entities in at least some contexts (for instance, the Romanian “cooperativa agricolă de producţie”, agricultural production cooperative), I believe the term “collective farm” is the more widely used in English and carries connotations more appropriate than does the word “cooperative”. Other kinds of cooperative property were small trades and service establishments set up, for example, for carpentry, shoe-making, tailoring, or repairs.

45 This relationship is not one of simple representation—that is, the party-state represents the people. Rather, it embodies it. In Romanian, one word used to describe the relation of state to “the whole people” (întregul popor) is întruchipare, translated as “embodiment” or “personification”. Chip means “image”, “face”, or “likeness”, întru indicating movement into and -are referring to a process: thus, the process of moving into a likeness. This is the relation of state to whole people.

46 Lupan and Reghini, Drept civil, 119.

47 Butler, Soviet Law, 179.

48 These are the subjects of ownership in other systems, such as those described by Max Gluckman, Essays on Lozi Land and Royal Property (Rhodes-Livingstone Institute, 1943); Gluckman, The Ideas in Barotse Jurisprudence (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965); Bronislaw Malinowski, Coral Gardens and Their Magic (London: Allen and Unwin, 1935); et cetera.

49 Campeanu, Stalinist Social Order, 41,

50 Heller, “Anticommons”, 629.

51 Feldbrugge, Russian Law, 231

52 This fact vastly complicates the assignment of ownership rights during privatization. For example, a piece of land might be “donated” to a collective farm by its owner (even though prior decrees had nationalized it from that owner), then the administrative rights to it transferred to a state farm, which might assign it to a farm employee for a houseplot. Although each of these entities might treat the land as “its own”—especially the employee whose house stood on it—and dispose of it as such, none of them had been registered as owner because ownership had not in fact changed. With decollectivization, if the farm employee wants to sell his house, he has no title to the land under it—nor is it certain from whom he might obtain that title.

53 See, for example, Armstrong, Soviet Law of Property; Jadwiga Staniszkis, The Dynamics of the Breakthrough in Eastern Europe (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991).

54 János Kornai, Economics of Shortage (Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishers, 1980).

55 In addition, managers had an obligation to pay their workers, but this obligation was less significant for property relations than the others I have mentioned.

56 Compare C. A. Gregory, Gifts and Commodities (London: Academic Press, 1982); Marilyn Strathern, The Gender of the Gift: Problems with Women and Problems with Society in Melanesia (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1988); Dunn, “Privatization and Personhood”. I acknowledge a debt to Elizabeth Dunn, who continued to insist on the importance of gift exchange in socialist systems until I finally got the message.

57 Dunn, “Privatization and Personhood”.

58 This statement should be modified with respect to the identity-creating aspects of consumption items. Partly in reaction to a system that gave consumers the lowest priority, daily life included much creativity devoted to procuring things with which one could signal one’s individuality. We might see this as the complementary constitution of possessive individuals relative to socialist acknowledgment of personal property, howsoever transitory it was to be, in relation to which identities as individuals were created.

59 Heller, “Anticommons”, 631.

60 Heller, “Anticommons”, 631.

61 Stark, “Recombinant Property”; David Stark and László Bruszt, Postsocialist Pathways: Transforming Politics and Property in East Central Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

62 Stark, “Recombinant Property”, 995.

63 Michael Burawoy and János Lukács, The Radiant Past: Ideology and Reality in Hungary’s Road to Capitalism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).

64 Dunn, “Privatization and Personhood”.

Auteur

Katherine Verdery is Eric. R Wolf Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

© Central European University Press, 2000

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