Russia's Missing Middle Class: The Professions in Russian History

Russia's Missing Middle Class: The Professions in Russian History

Russia's Missing Middle Class: The Professions in Russian History

Russia's Missing Middle Class: The Professions in Russian History

Excerpt

In postemancipation Russia and the Soviet Union professional specialists constituted the largest component of the nascent middle class. Before 1917 specialists were growing rapidly in numbers and played an important role in the political process, but an estate-based social structure and cleavages cutting across their occupational and social identities inhibited concerted political action. The primary goal of this volume is to provide a preliminary portrait of the development and expansion of Russian professions in the years before 1917.

Questions about the character of Russian professions have acquired an additional dimension with the demise of the Soviet political system. Policies adopted by the Soviet regime resulted in a massive increase in the number of specialists in the knowledge-based professions within a system where political controls and stringent deprofessionalization precluded collective action. Since 1991 the attempt to create a democratic polity in Russia has invited, if not demanded, the participation of the professional middle class. Yet, as in the period before 1917, it has proved difficult for these groups to act in concert or to firmly establish a professional or middle-class identity. Exploring the history of Russian professions helps us to learn more about the professional specialists and the role they might play in the future. Russia's professional intelligentsia provided many of the ideas and much of the support for perestroika. These communities of specialists might be expected to join Russia's new commercial and industrial groups in supporting economic reforms and political change. But in the face of social change and economic crisis a danger exists that rapid downward social mobility could lead professional specialists to support more extreme political movements.

Approaches to the Study of Professions

Early studies of professions focused mainly on Britain and America and generally adopted an uncritical approach. The existence of professions was accepted as part of the natural order of things, and professional communities . . .

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