Types of historical development, or Russia’s morphology of backwardness (Part 1)


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.

About the authors

T Shanin

University of Manchester

Author for correspondence.
Email: shanin@universitas.ru
Oxford Rd., Manchester, M13 9PL, UK


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