Sunday, May 17, 2020

Class Analysis Doesn’t Work for Russia Because It is ‘a Classless Society,” Rodgers Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 15 – Aleksandr Rodgers, a Russian commentator, says that efforts to make sense of Russia via conventional class analyses fail because Russia lacks classes “in the traditional sense” with individuals routinely moving from what one might categorize as one class to another sometimes remarkably quickly and multiple times.

            A class system, he argues, “presupposes a clear division of society into sufficiently closed groups and the impossibility (or the extreme difficulty) of moving from one such group to another” (

            “In particular,” he says, “an individual cannot become a member of the ruling elite or entrepreneur if his parents did not belong ‘to that very circle.’ And marriages between representatives of various classes are considered mesalliances and are condemned in society. We clearly see such a system in the US, the UK, and a number of other Western countries.”

            But this isn’t what one sees in Russia today, Rodgers continues.  The Russian Empire had a class system, but “the revolution destroyed it. And in the USSR, the head of state could become even a peasant (sometimes I think when looking at Khrushchev and Gorbachev that it would have been better otherwise).”

            “And while in the USSR a new ruling class, the nomenklatura, began to be formed. It wasn’t able to completely root this status (by inheritance) and it fell apart in 1991.”  There are remnants of the nomenklatura even now, but most are “just like White officers in emigration who were dreaming about revenge.”

            Since 1991 and despite the efforts of some to restore fixed class lines, people have been crossing them with remarkable frequency. “Personally,” Rogers says, “over [his] 42 years, he has succeeded in being an entrepreneur, a mover, a state employee, an aide to a deputy governor, a wage laborer, self-employed, again an entrepreneur, almost the director of an institute, and now an independent freelance. To what class does [he] belong?”

            People supposedly locked at the bottom can make amazing ascents, and those at the top can fall with a flick of Putin’s finger.  They may have different amounts of money, but they are not really in different social classes.  And that means, Rodgers says, that “we do not have classes in the traditional sense.”

            It may be that classes will form in the future, and it is certainly true that different groups of people have different amounts of income and wealth already. But they can’t rely on these things to keep them where they are and do not have the ability to pass them on to their children and thus ensure their status. 

            Russia today thus lives in “a specific kind of classless society,” albeit one very different from what the Marxists promised.

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