ABSTRACT

Introduction It has been often assumed that self-provisioning is a leftover from a previous mode of accumulation and that the small vestiges that remain will eventually disappear as the formal market economy becomes ever more dominant (e.g. Smuts 1971). Over the last decade or so, however, there has been an emergent recognition that self-provisioning is not some minor practice in post-Soviet societies and beyond, but is extensively used by the vast majority of households in their everyday livelihood practices (Bennholdt-Thomson 2001; Bittmann et al. 1999; Gershuny 2000; Marcelli et al. 2010; Williams 2003, 2005b, 2007, 2008; Williams and Nadin 2010; Williams and Round 2008, 2010). To explain this, a range of competing explanations have emerged which variously depict those engaged in self-provisioning either as rational economic actors, dupes, seekers of self-identity or simply as doing so out of necessity or choice. Despite this, few have evaluated either the importance and prevalence of, or rationale for, participation in self-provisioning. This chapter bridges that gap. To commence, therefore, the first section will briefly review the various perspectives towards self-provisioning in relation to both its prevalence and the reasons for engaging in such work. To evaluate critically these contrasting perspectives, the second section will then evaluate the extent of, and reasons for, self-provisioning in Ukraine, while the third section covers Moscow. This will reveal not only how self-provisioning is extensively used in the post-Soviet world, but also through a process of induction, how one can differentiate between ‘willing’ (rational economic actors, choice, identity seeking) and ‘reluctant’ (economic and market necessity, dupes) participants in selfprovisioning. Having then reviewed in the fourth section the particular role of the dacha in post-Soviet societies, the concluding section will call for wider recognition of the persistence of self-provisioning in the contemporary postsocialist world and its centrality in livelihood practices. At the outset, however, self-provisioning must be defined, or what is variously referred to as ‘subsistence production’, ‘housework’, ‘domestic work’ or ‘do-it-yourself activity’. Self-provisioning here refers to work undertaken on an unpaid basis by household members for themselves or for some other member of their household that

might otherwise be undertaken in the formal economy (Reid 1934; Williams 2005a). To distinguish between self-provisioning and leisure, this definition thus uses a ‘third person’ approach. That is, if the activity could be undertaken by somebody in formal employment, then it is self-provisioning rather than leisure. As will become apparent later, this issue of whether it ‘could’ be undertaken by somebody in formal employment and why it is currently not is very important in understanding the persistence of self-provisioning.