From the Coffee Grinder to Sputnik I
The Culture of Objects and Woman in the Service of Ideology
The essay endeavours to serve as a background for further research on Hungarian pop art and the artistic representation of societal gender roles by examining socialist consumption and the culture of objects and the discourse concerning the socialist woman, not from the perspective of economics or the history of consumption, but from the point of view of cultural history. It focuses on the change of strategy dur¬ing the Cold War, which from the side of the West signified the use of soft power, while in the East it implied the modification of socialist modernization, in so far as emphasis was shifted from aggressive armament and the conquest of space to everyday prosper¬ity and consumption. The narrower segment under examination is the project in the Sixties that addressed the modernization of the kitchen and the woman of the house, a project which extended to the manufacturing of household appliances aimed at facilitating domestic chores faced by women who also had full time jobs, the introduction of a network of self-service businesses, the expansion of the use of canned food, as well as hygiene, environmental culture and the cultivation of taste. According to the imagery and the texts found in publications of the time, posters and women’s magazines, it was not socialist modernism and the official policy of emancipation that confronted the inherited mentality of the masses as a hindering factor, although this is what contemporary official discourse attempted to imply. This mode of discourse, the style in which the modernization of the household and the housewife and the expansion of consumption was communicated through pictures, advertisements and objects conserved old patriarchal topoi in opposition to the official political discourse. Indeed these topoi bore strong resemblance to the topoi prevalent in the capitalist world, which represented a rival ideological con¬struction that communism sought to surpass, and the manner of their implementa¬tion was very similar to that used during in the Soviet Union during the Khrushchev years, a period which showed signs of easing with regards to the dictatorial regime.