Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Class, party and the market in Yugoslavia 1945-1968

Benson, L (1973) Class, party and the market in Yugoslavia 1945-1968. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86361) (KAR id:86361)


This study considers the impact of processes of economic change on the class order of post-war Yugoslavia. Section I discusses the changing patterns of material inequality which have emerged since the founding of the communist state. It shows that economic development falls into two distinct and dissimilar periods. The first, which lasted until 1965, was characterised by a high degree of state control over the allocation of resources. The hallmark of this regime was heavy investment in new jobs, leading to a high rate of upward mobility and the low, stable differentiation of incomes according to skills. in the later phase, productivity was made to rise very much faster than the rate of expansion of the occupational structure, and this signalled the removal of the conditions which had made for low class differentiation. Severe unemployment and runaway inflation also accompanied the intensification of the socialist market, so that by the end of the sixties inequalities steming from the division of labour were considerable indeed. Section II deals with the adaptation of the political order to the exigencies of decentralized decision-making. Although the centralized state bureaucracy shrank in size and power relative to the immediate post-war years, the Party continued to control recruitment to positions of authority through informal mobility mechanisms. However, the increased power and independence of local elites has produced a problem for Party centralism. Uncontrolled power frequently leads to its abuse, and social consciousness of the 'veza' system illustrates the force of the political order generally in shaping perceptions of the class structure. Section III examines the consequences of the unification of political and organizational authority for social relationships at work. The role of top managements within local elite structures inhibits the professionalization of management, and the present balance between political power and economic decision-making is not well suited to the operation of a competitive market. The concentration of power in the hands of top managerial personnel tends to be destructive of good social relationships within the collective. Manual workers are deprived of effective influence within the enterprise, while professionally-oriented managers resent the restrictions on their role imposed by political supervision. Nevertheless, it is clear from conflict situations that it is the manual/nonmanual division which is acquiring the greatest salience, although the historical development of the Yugoslav industrial system also gives rise to other forms of combination and coalition. Section IV points to the fluidity of the status order, brought about both by rapid mobility and to the confusion generated by two very dissimilar periods of economic growth. Rural provenance, education and power are discussed separately as sources of social honour ascription. Following the analysis of Section II, it is hypothesized that the relationship between power and status should be of especial concern in Yugoslav society. In particular, it is suggested that the power and wealth of the state is relevant to an understanding of the low status of routine white collar occupations, since employment outside the productive sector in various administrative bureaucracies confers privileges not contingent upon the market. Housing, and its relationship to status, is examined in this context. The conclusion reached is that under market conditions the Yugoslav class order is beginning to display greater similarities with western societies. However, this process of convergence is limited by political factors, and it is more useful to assimilate the class order to those models which emphasise structural strains between the political system and the requirements demanded by the management of social change. On the other hand, the point is stressed that the requirements of economic growth work independently of the political will to control them, and the successful manipulation of class inequality is closely linked to one special form of economic organization. It is not an attribute of the monoparty system as such. Indeed, it is finally argued, the Yugoslav Party has proved itself markedly inept at identifying and rectifying the conflicts which have appeared with the loss of centralized control over the allocation of resources. The state tends rather to accentuate the inequalities deriving from the market casting doubt on its ability successfully to manage the tensions which the market increasingly fosters.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86361
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Politics
Subjects: J Political Science > JN Political institutions and public administration (Europe)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:54 UTC
Last Modified: 23 Feb 2022 11:52 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.