Sunday, December 8, 2019

Fight over Draft Family Violence Law about Whether Individualism or Collectivism Should Dominate Russian Life, Shaburov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 6 – The conflict over a draft law that would introduce penalties against family members who engage in violence against other family members has become a political issue not because some Russians want to protect children and others do not, Aleksey Shaburov says.

            Instead, this fight has intensified, the Yekaterinburg commentator argues, because it is about whether individualism or collectivism should be the primary value in Russian society and politics and thus whether the rights of the individual or the power of the state should take precedence (

            Those who support the draft law are easy to understand: they want a remedy to a plague that affects all too many Russian wives and children. But the reasons behind the opposition of others to the measure need to be examined because they are not what they might appear at first glance, Shaburov says.

            “It would be completely untrue to assert that opponents of the law somehow like family violence or even more that they themselves have engaged in it. Of course, this isn’t true.” Overwhelmingly, they don’t and haven’t – and “many of those who criticize the law – one is speaking about the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church – don’t have families in general.” 

            The issue for them is whether the state should be empowered to intervene in the family to protect the victims, and it is here that their view diverges.  In short, their position is political and not in some supposed support for cruelty and bloodthirstiness.

            “The family is a cell of society … it is the first collective in which an individual finds himself. This is a collective in which practically all people are included” and it “forms a model of the behavior of the individual toward collectives which then can be extended to other collectives,” Shaburov suggests.

            Thus, “when one begins to talk about family violence, there are two opposing models.”  The first “presupposes that the interests and feelings of the individual stand in first place and those of the collective (the family) in second.  That means that an individual must not put up with force for the preservation of the family.”

            “More than that, he can count on defense and support from society and the state which will get involved in support of the individual rather than the collective in which he finds himself (that is, the family). Yes, as a result, the family as a collective dissolves but the rights and interests of the individual will be defended because they are more important.”

            According to Shaburov, “the second model presupposes that the interests of the collective are always more important than the interests of its individual members. And therefore, in order to preserve the collective, that is, the family, it is necessary to tolerate burdens and costs connected with collective life.”

            “Beyond question,” this position holds, “force is bad, but this is insufficient to sacrifice the collective.”  The personal interests and even rights of the individual must be subordinated to it because backers of this view “intuitively feel that if people are given the right to resist force at the expense of this collective, then they will begin to resist other collectives” including the state.

            Shaburov says that “if we follow the first model, the individual has the right to resist force for his rights are always more important than the collective while according to the second model he must put up with things and not resist.” Thus, “the opponents of the law aren’t defending family tyrants; they’re defending the interests of the state” as they understand them.

            In short, “this is a struggle of collectivism and individualism at the most fundamental level.” If individualism wins out here, the relationship of the individual and the state changes; if collectivism does, it remains as it is. Today, it is too soon to say which of these two positions will win out.

            “The values of individualism are promoted by the entire contemporary culture and in this is their great advantage. [But] behind collectivism stands a powerful political resource. And whatever the fate of the law on family violence will be, the struggle between these models will not end,” Shaburov concludes.

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