The irony of the situation is that the primary vehicle of this social inequality was consumption the very activity that the state had chosen as a tool for re-warding workers and stimulating the economy. As Ivan Szelenyi argued in 1981 regarding the Hungarian case, housing distribution practices in socialist states actually exacerbated social inequality. As in Yugoslavia, Hungary rewarded its most “useful” citizens disproportionately, awarding higher wages and apart-ments with inexpensive rents. Higher-ranking party members, military offi-cers, and other important persons, who already made a higher income than average, were virtually guaranteed apartments in socially owned apartment buildings because of their status. In contrast, workers and lower-ranking civil servants, who were paid lower wages, had to compete for the scarce remaining apartments. More likely than not, they would end up paying a much higher rent for a private sublet or opt to spend their savings on building a house.20 As Katherine Verdery has shown, clientelism was a widespread practice in state socialism, which channeled items of collective consumption in the direction of those who were already privileged.21
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Yugoslavia’s economic situation at the end of the 1960s aggravated the situation. Inflation rose sharply after the 1965 reforms, which introduced the liber- alization of prices, leading to price increases at a yearly average of 10.4 percent between 1965 and 1975.22 As a result of this, and due to the constant increases in the cost of housing production, policy makers struggling to make the hous-ing industry economically sustainable never succeeded in raising rents to actu-ally reflect the cost of buildings’ construction and maintenance. Consequently, access to state-owned housing actually increased the purchasing power of the privileged class. Inflation also benefited those who had purchased apartments by starkly reducing the real value of the loan payments.
Inequalities in collective consumption led to further inequalities in personal consumption. While those who rented apartments from their employers were free to spend their remaining income conspicuously on designer clothing, vacations, cars, and other luxury goods, a substantial strata of the working class was obliged to devote a large portion of its more meager savings to building their own houses. The spatial segregation of the rich and the poor into easily identifiable affluent and underprivileged neighborhoods made this disparity highly visible, as one article on New Belgrade emphasized.23
At first, concerned sociologists issued cautious warnings about this widening wealth disparity. Writing in 1966, in an article on how to facilitate the integration of different population groups in a neighborhood, Jerzabek noted that, far from promoting social cohesion, policies guiding the distribution of housing created homogeneous settlements. The link between income and rent, he argued, was channeling workers into one building and engineers and other specialists into the other. He warned that New Belgrade risked becoming the home of the Yugoslav bureaucracy at the very moment that self-management was aiming to eliminate this class.24
Increasingly convinced that the new settlements were contributing to creating social inequality, and frustrated by the inertia of the Yugoslav system in responding to this issue, sociologists began to diverge from their prescribed role as neutral and objective social scientists, instead adopting a more militant role as social critics. A comparison between two studies on the experience of inhabitants in new apartment buildings, one produced in 1967 and the other in 1969, highlights this shift.
In his 1967 study, Jerzabek carried out a preliminary study of the factors determining neighborly relations in New Belgrade for the SZKSP. This preliminary study was conducted in preparation for a meeting of the European economic commission of the UN on the theme of “cities of the future,” held in September of 1966, which illustrates the importance of international gather-