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"Survival" Economy


This phenomenon is difficult to pinpoint as it has been studied very little. But among some of its more basic characteristics are the following: the peoples chief preoccupation is survival, not capital accumulation; they are prepared to take any employment, use different methods of earning money, and have several jobs at a time; wage labor is replaced by family labor and by mutual support networks based on close neighborly, kinship, and ethnic ties; and money lending is based on kinship and trust rather than formal contractual relations.  

These features of the informal survival economy did not conform to market principles, which the Russian government sought to enforce. On the contrary, they were designed to keep both the state and big business at a safe distance from society to minimize the ruinous effects of their decisions and activities on the mass of Russian families.

Here is an example of a typical self-sufficient family system sustaining three generations of family members. The grandfather and grandmother live in a village. Their children and grandchildren are city dwellers. In summer the grandchildren stay with their grandparents in the village. Their mother and father come down from the city to help their elderly parents during the sowing season, and in the autumn they collect their children along with sacks of potatoes and vegetables to help the family survive over the winter. In return, they supply the elderly couple with goods that are hard to get in the village, such as medicine.

As this example demonstrates, the economy of survival is not based on purely economic relations, but is conditioned by noneconomic personal, family, and social factors.

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