Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Post-Soviet Man Resembles Pre-Soviet Predecessor More than Soviet One, Sociologists Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 16 – The Tolkovatel portal over the last several years has focused on the origins of the characteristics of post-Soviet man, including his suspiciousness about everything new, his hierarchical approach to all things, his unhappiness with his life, and his believes in dark forces and conspiracies.

            And it has pointed to how the post-Soviet man compensates for this by an elevated sense of exceptionalism and to the origins of these values not in Soviet times but rather in the Russia of the 18th and 19th centuries  (See ttolk.ru/2016/08/17/александр-ахиезер-когда-в-россии-появ/. Cf.   windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2013/03/window-on-eurasia-archaic-revivals.html and  windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/11/russian-authoritarianism-from-below.html).

            Today, the review blog excerpts a new article by Sergey Patrushev and Lyudmila Filippova of the Moscow Institute of Sociology entitled “The Dualism of Mass Consciousness and the Typology of Mass Politics” published in the latest issue of Politicheskaya nauka (inion.ru/files/File/PN-Patrushev-Philippova-2017-1.pdf. The selected passages are at

            After recounting the characteristics of “post-Soviet man” offered earlier by Yury Levada and Lev Gudkov (nataliabaranova.livejournal.com/127841.html?thread=366177), Patrushev and Filippova seek to answer “why Europe achieved the creation of ‘a political man’ while Russia didn’t?”
            And they make the following argument: “The sources of the dualism of mass consciousness in Russia are to be found not in the ‘totalitarian’ Soviet past but in much earlier historical periods.  The investigation of the creation of Russian political consciousness highlights the way in which a number of tendencies have reappeared in our days in a cyclical fashion.”

            “In Russia of the second half of the 18th and the 19th centuries, political consciousness [in Russia] was formed under conditions of a split, first between the numerically dominant peasant population and the small nobility and then between modernist and anti-modernist worldviews,” Patrushev and Filippova say.

            Because of this split, “political and pre-political consciousness coexisted at the same time although the latter predominated.”

            “The traditional culture of the Russian peasants” was simultaneously “loyal and inclined to revolt,” while “various groups of the nobility represented conservative, liberal and revolutionary types of political consciousness.”  But what is most important is that “the process of Europeanization stimulated anti-modern attitudes” in reaction.
            And that took the form of superficial adoption of European values while even greater attachment to archaic ones, leading to a kind of ‘’doublethink’” in which people might appear to be Europeanized but in fact had become more archaic, a pattern that has re-emerged in post-Soviet times, the two sociologists say.

            “The technology, forms of organization of work, and social ideals borrowed from European peoples,” they continue, “in a paradoxical way were reproduced in society with deeply rooted stereotypes of thought and behavior. This paradoxical combination of Europeanism and the archaic” is fully reflected in Russians’ approach to public and political life.

                And this has resulted in a sharp difference between Western Europe and Russia. “In Western Europe, civil society formed on agreed-upon principles as a result of which” people recognized the reciprocal nature of rights. But in Russia, “civil society did not take shape, and the main principle of social organization was collectivity (sobornost),” which forced the individual to “dissolve” himself in the whole.

            It is this “contradiction between superficial modernism and deep archaism” [which] forms the essence of the dualism of present-day Russian political consciousness,” Patrushev and Filippova say. But the resulting “alienation from politics leads to an institutional trap” from which Russians have not been able to escape.

            “The alienation from politics and from the powers,” they continue, “remains one of the key characteristics of Russian mass political consciousness” which also retains “elements of paternalistic dependence on the powers that be.”  Nearly two-thirds of Russians “don’t feel responsible for what happens in the country, and 78 percent don’t expect the state to help them.

            “In the apathetic nature and inertia of the mass strata, in their weakness and inability ‘to challenge’ the existing order of things” explains why the powers that be can count on relative stability for most of the time.

            “Correspondingly,” they say, “the powers that be are interested in the preservation of the dualism of political conscioiusness by a combination in political discourse of traditionalist and modernizing elements.  The reverse side of the tendency of the depoliticization of the masses is the growing dependence of the authorities” on conflicts within the elites.

            “The political elites are not capable of developing a stable agreement on the main issues of the development of Russian society,” and that, “in combination with the other important characteristic of mass consciousness – a refusal to take responsibility – produces an institutional trap” neither can easily escape.

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