Socialism examines socialist ideals and realities from a variety of anthropological perspectives. Although socialism as a radical critique of capitalistic industrial society may appear to be defunct, on one can doubt that it will leave behind powerful cultural legacies in countries all over the world, as well as conceptual legacies within anthropology and other social sciences. The contributors reveal the factors which have given socialism such a profound worldwide impact, and which helped socialist societies to reproduce themselves for so long.They develop theories and analyses of socialism both in relation to primitive communism' and as a modern form of social organisation with revolutionary aspirations. Case studies are drawn not only from the non-European countries, with which anthropology is most commonly associated, but also from both Western and Eastern Europe. Recuring themes include the links with ethnic and national conflicts, with traditional cultures and religious practices, and with gender relations. A number of contributors also illuminate the mechanisms of the recent changes which have removed socialists from power in many countries.
The first book to present a sustained and wide-ranging investigation of socialism by social anthropologists, this volume will do much to help us comprehend the experiences of ordinary people' under socialism and their responses to new post-socialist dilemmas. As well as opening up new fields of investigation for political anthropology, it makes an important contribution to our understanding of some of the most central and far-reaching events of contemporary history.