Soviet Society under Perestroika

Soviet Society under Perestroika

Soviet Society under Perestroika

Soviet Society under Perestroika

Synopsis

This is an up-to-the-minute revised edition of a text which, since its publication in 1990, has been extremely influential. The great changes of the past 18 months have entailed a comprehensive updating of the book. This edition takes account of new developments that include the independence of the Baltic states and the treaty which sparked 1991's attempted coup.

Excerpt

It has been twenty years since the first edition of Politics and Society in the USSR was published. That book was innovative because it was one of the first books to use data, inexact and inadequate as they were, that had been collected by Soviet social scientists. In the early 1970s the study of class, nationalities, and pressure groups in the political process was regarded as marginal by most and even irrelevant by some Western commentators who in their demonic black art of kremlinology focused narrowly on the “outputs” of the political system. Like Soviet political writers, Western scholars emphasized the differences between Soviet communism and Western society: the polarities of democracy and control, civil society and the state, liberty and equality, individualism and collectivism, welfare and exploitation were at the fore in the analysts’ preoccupations with their rival claims of the superiority of capitalism or communism respectively. My own attempt to define the USSR as a species of industrial society was not popular with the established opinion-makers in either the Soviet or the Anglo-Saxon academic establishments. The boon of an expansion in the study of political science and sociology and a growing interest in socialist countries (often precipitated by a thirst to “know the enemy”), however, ensured the book’s success and replacement by a two volume work in 1985.

In 1991 the specter of communism in the West has changed completely. It is symbolic that President Gorbachev is feted in Western capitals: he has been given a state welcome by Queen Elizabeth II, and he had a tumultuous reception in West Germany. The repudiation of Marxism-Leninism, the collapse of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and creation of a new Union of Sovereign States in the autumn of 1991, has led Western writers to pontificate on the end of the epoch of socialism started in 1917. Soviet writing about the USSR has experienced a parallel shift. If ideologists were previously concerned with the “export of revolution” from the USSR, now they are preoccupied with the import

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