Vol 17, No 1 (2017)

Theory, Methodology and History of Sociological Research
Political economy of agrarian change: Some key concepts and questions
Bernstein H.
Abstract

This paper draws on lectures given in recent years at the China Agricultural University, on author’s book Class Dynamics of Agrarian Change [1] and on a recent article [3]. The author supplied as few references as possible to very large literature in English on agrarian change both historical and contemporary; there is an ample bibliography in [1], which is expanded in [2-5]. The paper outlines in schematic fashion some key concepts in the political economy of agrarian change with special reference to capitalism historically and today; some key questions posed by the political economy of agrarian change, and how it seeks to investigate and answer them; two sets of more specific questions about agrarian transition to capitalism and agrarian change within capitalism (internal to the countryside, bringing in rural-urban interconnections, pointing towards the place of agriculture within larger ‘national’ economies, and concerning the character and effects of the capitalist world economy). With the aid of the last group of questions, the author discusses three themes, which they are deployed to investigate: the agrarian origins of capitalism, the distinction between farming and agriculture generated by capitalism, and the fate(s) of peasant farmers in the modern world of capitalism. The author believes that one cannot conceive the emergence and functioning of agriculture in modern capitalism without the centrality and configurations of new sets of dynamics linking agriculture and industry, and the rural and urban, and the local, national and global. The three themes all feed into the fourth and final theme, that of investigating the fate(s) of the peasantry in capitalism today, which resonates longstanding debates of the ‘disappearance’ or ‘persistence’ of the peasantry, albeit now in the conditions of contemporary ‘globalization’. The author does not deny some of the critique of the contemporary globalization, or at least its effects; his problem is the advocacy of ‘solutions’ premised on an unconvincing, pre-given and idealized ‘peasant way’ that lacks the analytical means (and desire) to confront processes of class formation in the countryside.

RUDN Journal of Sociology. 2017;17(1):7-18
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Types of historical development, or Russia’s morphology of backwardness (Part 1)
Shanin T.
Abstract

With this paper, we start 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 the next issue of the journal, we will publish the second part of the fifth chapter of the book, as well as the refereed translation of the whole chapter. In this part, the author considers the key conceptual approaches to the notion of social and economic development on the global scale and in the historical framework. Thus, the variety of convergence theories assumed that whatever the rhetoric or the crudities of Russia’s socialist experiment, it was not much more than a gigantic exercise in ‘belated industrialization’ and in converging towards closing ‘the gap’ between Western Europe or the USA and the rest of the globe. The modernization theories divided the world into ‘three worlds’ - First, Second and Third - and assumed that the Second World would turn into First, while the Third World should go a much longer way. However, the author considers it much more important to specify what is meant by the category of societies defined as ‘developing’, ‘backward’, ‘underdeveloped’, ‘emerging’, etc. There are essentially two ways to delimit such entities structurally: the first treats ‘developing societies’ as backward and proceeding towards modernity along the necessary scale of social and economic advance, but for some reasons not yet ‘there’ or else moving ‘there’ too slowly; the second approach assumes different venues of ‘development’, with the ‘developing societies’ representing a category of this. Further, the article identifies possibilities and limits of different theoretical perspectives, in particular, regarding the Russian intellectual and social-economic history.

RUDN Journal of Sociology. 2017;17(1):19-37
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Approaches to the study of religion in Pierre Bourdieu’s social theory
Sitnikov A.V.
Abstract

The article considers Pierre Bourdieu’s approaches to the study of religion: the author analyzes basic concepts of Bourdieu’s sociology of religion and identifies religious spheres and traditions to which his ideas can be applied. The methods developed by Bourdieu, despite their limitations, successfully work in the contemporary studies. Bourdieu’s theory of religion became the starting point for some new approaches, in particular, for the study of ritual practices. His concept of religious habitus allows to analyze the mechanisms by which the religion generates certain practices, conventions, life styles, meanings and values according to its doctrine and experience. Representatives of one denomination usually not only follow the same rules and rituals, but also have a similar taste, life style and perception of religious leaders. The habitus embodies traditions and history of a denomination; it is a means of keeping up practices and their transfer to next generations. At the same time, Bourdieu’s approaches to the study of religion have some weaknesses: his theoretical model is too dependent on the French context and describes mainly the catholic church; his techniques aim to analyze the relationship between the state and the dominant church with its hierarchical structure. Another limitation of Bourdieu’s approach is that he attributes economic logic of supply and demand to the religious activities, and defines religion as determined exclusively to legalize and reproduce unequal and unjust social order. Bourdieu believed that the church was always linked with the mechanisms of social domination, exercise of power and consecration of the ruling classes’ privileges, i.e. with the merits of maintaining social order and legitimizing the power. Thus, Bourdieu credits the producers of religious capital with too much power and capabilities, which they do not really have. In Bourdieu’s theory, religion is an instrument of the struggle for power responsible for social deficiencies and injustices. That is why his theory misses many important aspects of religion.

RUDN Journal of Sociology. 2017;17(1):38-50
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Network frontier as a metaphor and myth
Plotichkina N.V., Dovbysh E.G.
Abstract

This article considers spatial metaphors of the Internet and the possibility to extrapolate the frontier thesis of F. Turner on the electronic space. The authors believe that information and communication technologies and the digital world have become new spaces for the expansion of states or individuals. That is why there are ongoing scientific debates on the limits and potential of western and electronic frontiers’ metaphors for analytical description of the digital space. The metaphor of the Internet as a western frontier is quite controversial; many authors prefer the electronic frontier analogy as more heuristic and valid for constructing metaphors of the digital reality. The network frontier is defined as a dynamic, elastic and permeable border of social and cultural practices of the network society. The authors estimate the heuristic potential of the concept ‘network frontier’ developed on the basis of integration of the frontier theory and the concept ‘network society’, taking into account the effects of globalization for the study of elastic, permeable and movable border of the network landscape. In the digital world, the spatiality transforms, the geography of the Internet network determines the metamorphosis of the frontier as a contact zone between online and offline spaces, which is dynamic, innovative, encourages mobility, and its permeability depends on the digital competence of citizens. The authors explain the mythology of western and electronic frontier; name the main network frontier myths related to the rhetoric of western frontier myth; describe the main components of the western frontier myth associated with the idea of American exceptionalism; and conclude with the identification of nowadays myths about frontier-men and the online space they master.

RUDN Journal of Sociology. 2017;17(1):51-62
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Contemporary society: the urgent issues and prospects for development
European Christian Churches and their level of influence
Mudrov S.A.
Abstract

The article evaluates the level of influence of the Christian Churches in the European Union. In order to identify this influence, the author considers such variables as the degree of the religiosity of the state and the presence of Churches at the supranational (EU) level. Using the parameters of religiosity - belief in God, belonging to a particular denomination, and the confidence in the Church - the author identifies areas of high, medium and low influence of the Churches in the EU. The area of high influence includes Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Romania, Italy, Croatia and Poland; the medium influence area includes Germany, Spain, Finland, Ireland, Slovenia, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania and Austria; and the low influence area - Estonia, the Czech Republic, France, the UK, Belgium, Latvia and the Netherlands. Only countries with the homogenous Catholic or Orthodox population are inside the area of the high influence, while the countries with multi-confessional population are mainly in the area of low influence. This is partly due to the historical circumstances, but also to the rivalry between denominations, their ability to work together, and peculiarities of social doctrines. The author believes that all Christian denominations, with the exception of some Free Churches, show readiness to cooperate with the EU institutions on a variety of issues, which is confirmed by the growing number of religious representations in Brussels, where the Catholic Church has managed to establish the most influential and professional bodies, followed by the Orthodox and then by the mainstream Protestants. However, European institutions do not show the same degree of openness and eagerness to interact with the Christian Churches as the latter express about interacting with the EU.

RUDN Journal of Sociology. 2017;17(1):63-72
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Social mechanisms of media institutions: The genesis of recipient’s preferences
Mouzykant V.L.
Abstract

Within the framework of sociology of media the author explains the behavior of target audiences in the nowadays media environment, analyzes the changing nature of the relationship between the sender and the recipient of the message. The article considers the social mechanisms of the contemporary media institutions and changes in media consumption preferences of different social strata under the growing influence of communication technologies. The author believes that the digitalization determines the audience’s need for explanation instead of just information. The virtual reality as a new communication platform becomes a common practice, and the audience becomes its passive participant demanding new ways of real-time access to information. The print media audience is gradually moving from constant reading of one or two mass editions to the study of a large number of specialized media. There is the same trend of the declining share of main television channels in advertising budgets due to the increasing share of specialized network channels. At the same time, advertising budgets are transferred to the mobile platforms for there is a growing need in ‘big data’ in real time due to the fast development of mobile electronic devices. Tablets and smartphones are attributes of the emerging media ecology that are gradually replacing television for digital generations prefer to watch the same TV content ‘outside’ the traditional TV environment.

RUDN Journal of Sociology. 2017;17(1):73-82
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Corporate professional unity under the unstable labor market in the industrial region
Ogorodov A.S., Saranchuk S.Y., Chevtaeva N.G.
Abstract

The article examines the phenomenon of corporatism, which under the adverse external environment can be used by the professional community to improve the effectiveness of organization. The authors define corporatism of the professional society as a combination of homogenous interests, attitudes, traditions and values; and provide a sociological interpretation of the corporate unity through its organizational and behavioral parameters. The former consists of the perception of the organization reliability, the staff’s confidence in the future, satisfaction with the financial situation (static features), estimates of the innovative capabilities of the company, and the willingness to develop (dynamic features). The behavioral parameters include staff’s values and patterns of behavior that can contribute to the consolidation of the professional community. The authors believe that for corporate management vertical social ties are less important that the horizontal ones, such as the rule of law and honesty, and the team unity under the unstable external environment. The sample of the study conducted by the authors in 2015 consisted of various types of settlements typical for the Sverdlovsk Region: mono-towns and mono-settlements (Nizhny Tagil, Serov), towns and villages with the differentiated economic activities (Ekaterinburg, Irbit). The results of the empirical study of corporatism among different professional societies - industrial workers, social services’ and business organizations’ staff, individual entrepreneurs and authorities - revealed the internal resources that can reduce tensions on the labor market. The research data can be useful for the comparative analysis of corporatism in different regions of Russia (not only industrial and similar to the Ural Region, but differing from it by significant social and economic parameters).

RUDN Journal of Sociology. 2017;17(1):83-95
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South Kurdistan: Factors of the Iraqi Kurds’ national identity
Khoshawi H.H.
Abstract

The article considers factors determining the peculiarities of the integration processes in Iraqi Kurdistan. The formation of Iraqi Kurdistan as a social-political community was determined by the growth of national consciousness of the population of the autonomy, and by accelerating processes of self-determination under the influence of a number of external and internal reasons. The national identity of the Iraqi Kurds as a part of the Kurdish people is based on the same historical background, language, and culture, on the mental attribution of the Kurds to the single group, which is explained not only by historical facts, but also by a specific worldview and myths sometimes divorced from reality but rooted in the collective representations. The external pressure of direct aggression and political enforcement to the assimilation plays a key role in the consolidation of the Iraqi Kurds and in the growth of their national self-determination: the resistance to the common enemy strengthens the national identity of the Iraqi Kurds. The author examines factors both general for all the Kurds and specific for Iraqi Kurdistan, i.e. the strengthening of the common form of language through the education, literature and media institutions, and the development of economic relations and civil and political institutions, which is due to the autonomy status of Iraqi Kurdistan. The article identifies and examines objective reasons preventing intensive integration processes in the community of Iraqi Kurds, which are, on the one hand, the influence of the external forces including neighbor states, transnational corporations, the authorities of Baghdad, and the growing military aggression of the armed terrorist groups; on the other hand, the slowdown of integration processes inside Iraqi Kurdistan are due to the internal contradictions in the autonomy determined by the features of the social and political structure of the Kurd society, such as tribalism, immaturity of the political system, and ethnic and religious diversity.

RUDN Journal of Sociology. 2017;17(1):96-105
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Sociological lectures
Sociological indices: Methodological reflection on the construction patterns
Gerasimova K.G.
Abstract

The author asserts the need for the methodological reflection on the logic and basic approaches to the construction of sociological indices under the growing interest to mathematical modeling in sociology in the nowadays context of information saturation. Due to the constant increase of information flows, there is an evident need for methodological improvements in some areas of data analysis and modeling in sociology. The author believes that indices as generalized (integrated) indicators can represent complex social phenomena adequately and comprehensively. Despite the current widest usage of sociological indices in empirical research (both by international organizations and in small research projects), there is not enough methodological reflection to ‘regulate’ the procedure of indices development and verification. Thus, the author defines the category ‘sociological index’; introduces different groups of indices - sociometric, universal, and ‘classic’; and considers the specifics of constructing logical and analytical indices. The article focuses on methods for constructing sociological indices (substantive and mathematical logic), and on the potential and limitations of such methodological experience. For instance, it allows to apply the existing indices for solving quite new tasks and for studying various social phenomena. The author suggests a general algorithm for constructing sociological indices as a mathematical model based on three sequential steps: methodological, technical and empirical-analytical.

RUDN Journal of Sociology. 2017;17(1):106-115
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Political discourse as a managerial discourse: Approaches to definition and interpretation
Shilina S.A.
Abstract

The article considers definitions and features of political discourse interpreted by the author as a managerial discourse. Based on the speech of the President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in 2016, the author identifies attributes that constitute the political discourse, and provides quite an innovative interpretation of discourse as a social communication technology. The definition of the managerial discourse as a communicative technology leads to the interpretation of language as a code of interaction between society and the state; and the key feature of this communicative code is its ability to constitute social situations with a number of choices for all subjects of the system ‘the state - society’. At the same time, such a communication seamlessly combines common orientations and identity patterns. The author believes that one of the most important characteristics of the communicative situation reflected in the codes of the Russian President speech is its projection on the socially significant realities, such as the structural composition of power, the scope of power, political and economic situation, etc. The content of this political discourse is so well defined (economic issues) that its direct addressees are business communities and entrepreneurs taking part in the forum. However, the Russian President broadens the audience by some agentive nominations like “the heads of international organizations”, “leaders of the countries”, and “reputable politicians”, thus appealing to those who determine the situation in the global economy, and, hence, the common values of all countries of the world. The author concludes that the sociologically relevant typological characteristics of the political discourse are as follows: international community as a target audience, addressing global challenges, and attention to universal values.

RUDN Journal of Sociology. 2017;17(1):116-123
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The role and functions of public councils in enhancing effectiveness of regional state authorities
Orlova I.V., Sokolova T.D.
Abstract

The authors examine functions and activities of public councils as subjects of public control, and provide data on the legal regulation of public control and activities of its subjects in the Russian Federation. The article underlines the following main problems in the work of public councils: the fragmented legal regulation, and the low public involvement in solving socially significant problems that require active participation of citizens. The article is based on the empirical study conducted in 2015-2016 by the Committee of Public Relations of the Government of Moscow in cooperation with the Public Chamber of Moscow according to the orders of the Russian President given at the plenary session of the Public Chamber on 23.06.2015 in the framework of monitoring the effectiveness of public councils under the executive branch of the Federation subjects. The study of the activities of public councils under the state and local authorities was conducted in the form of a survey, which revealed that the public councils under the executive bodies of Moscow do not pursue a coordinated policy in respect of personnel, functions and regulations, and often perform different and incomparable in scale functions. Based on the research findings, the authors suggest some measures to enhance the effectiveness of public councils, such as unification of legal regulations and working formats, which would improve public awareness of the public councils’ activities and of the opportunities of personal involvement in such. However, the raising awareness and increasing interest in the public control should be accompanied by the development of effective mechanisms of involvement in the public control practices.

RUDN Journal of Sociology. 2017;17(1):124-132
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Authors
Authors
 
Abstract
RUDN Journal of Sociology. 2017;17(1):133-134
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