“Periphery”, state, and revolution, or Russia’s morphology of “backwardness” (Part 2)

Abstract


With this paper, we continue a series of publications on the theoretical aspects of Teodor Shanin’s conception of Russia as a ‘developing society’ first published in 1986 in the book Russia as a ‘Developing Society’. The Roots of Otherness: Russia’s Turn of Century. Vol. 1. In this part, the author considers the characterization of Russia as a “developing society” at the turn of the XX century, which cannot be understood outside the context of capitalism both internationally and intra-nationally. At the same time the unique/specific features that most profoundly characterized the Russian social scene at the turn of the century and made its mark as its past within its present were represented particularly by the state, ethnos and peasantry. The power of the Russian state apparatus, its share of resources, its control over the population and its legal claims exceeded those elsewhere where capitalism was on the march. Massive processes of consolidation and ‘extended reproduction’ of cultural patterns, language usage, fundamental symbols of identification and self-identification, as well as of related political loyalties, wielded together massive populations of different origins. Finally, during two centuries only, the Russian peasants moved all the way from the payment of tribute to unheard-of levels of exploitation and cattle-like enslavement of more than nine-tenths of the Russians; however, within another century came the emancipation from serfdom which made peasantry not only ‘free’ but landowning. The Russian dependent development of that time found its expression not only at the general level of the economic flows malfunctions and transformations but also at the distinct dimension of class generation and conflict. Parallel to the general crisis of the Russian political economy and the growing and increasingly explicit conflict between major social groups was an ideological/moral crisis expressed in perceptions, concepts and values (thus, the Russian intelligentsia confronted directly the state apparatus). The author concludes with the types of dissent initiated by men of knowledge, of ideas and of moral values, which was represented in different populist theorists including revolutionary populism and subjective sociology.

T Shanin

shanin@universitas.ru
University of Manchester
Oxford Rd., Manchester, M13 9PL, UK

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