Democracy from Scratch: Opposition and Regime in the New Russian Revolution

By M. Steven Fish | Go to book overview

III
Investigating the Phenomenon:
A Framework for Analysis

WHAT DID the groups examined in the previous chapter create? By the time of the abortive putsch, they clearly had forged a new independent political society and exerted substantial pressures on state institutions. How might the new society be characterized and its emergence explained? To what extent, moreover, did revolutionary societal organizations create the basis for democratic regime change in Russia?

Construction of the “dependent variable” stands as an especially complex part of this study, mainly because the study seeks to explain not a concrete, discrete event (e.g., a military coup, an electoral victory or defeat), but rather the emergence of a particular type of political society that heretofore has been poorly understood. The chapter therefore begins with close analysis of the phenomenon that will be explained. Did a civil society evolve in Russia, as many sovietologists argued? Or did something else emerge?


The Dependent Variable Defined

Conceptualizing Civil Society

“Civil society” is a slippery concept; there exist nearly as many conceptions of it as theorists who have examined it. Some definitions focus on concrete institutions, such as interest groups or the market. Others employ more normative or philosophical concepts such as individualism, privacy, and civility. Most theorists have defined civil society at least in part as the realm of independent, self-organized, and self-governing associations. Nearly all modern theorists of civil society, moreover, have insisted upon maintaining a distinction between state and society in their definitions. 1 In contrast with the literature on East Europe, most sovietology does not show the mark of close familiarity with modern or classical thinking on civil society. Though a number of sovietologists have applied the notion of “civil society” to Russia or the Soviet Union, only a sovietologist would include state agencies, or groups within state agencies, within the realm of civil soci

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