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date: 19 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Like capitalist societies, the Soviet Union and the Soviet-type societies of Eastern Europe showed a high degree of social stratification and inequality. By the 1960s the rapid upward mobility of worker and peasant children in the intelligentsia and Party hierarchy had noticeably slowed, and an inherited class structure emerged. Because privileges in the Soviet Union were only weakly monetarized, and wealth could not be accumulated or inherited, privileged groups perpetuated themselves mainly through the use of internal ‘connections’ and by ensuring their offspring preferential access to higher education through which they would secure elite positions. We also see important differentiations within the workforce: urban vs. rural workers; ‘core’ workers vs. migrants; and men vs. women. China prior to the reform movement displayed a similar overall picture, with, however, some radical differences. Under Mao the gap in living standards between Party officials and ordinary workers was much more narrow than in the USSR, while the Cultural Revolution blunted attempts to ensure the reproduction of social stratification via access to higher education.

Keywords: Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, elite, workers, intelligentsia, mobility, social stratification, class structure, inequality, education, privilege, women

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