Notes from Underground: Rock Music Counterculture in Russia

By Thomas Cushman | Go to book overview

Notes

1. A Recovery of the Senses:
Toward a Critical-Interpretive Sociology
of Russian Culture
1.
It is beyond the scope of this book to provide an in-depth exploration of the issue of where the Soviet Union fits into current discourse on modernity. The most general problem in the theoretical discourse on modernity is the conflation of the terms capitalism and modernity in contemporary social theory. Giddens ( 1990) argues that the terms are essentially coterminous, but also suggests that the Soviet Union represents a particularly rigid form of modernity in the twentieth century.
2.
For a clear discussion and critique of the parameters of this debate, see Jowitt ( 1992, pp. 124-27).
3.
It is important to add two codicils to the use of the term modernity to describe the outcome of Soviet modernization. First, its use is not to infer that there is a telos to the process of historical development. As Jowitt ( 1991) points out, the use of the term modernization in Sovietology often assumes that the end of all industrial development is characterized by an inexorable tendency toward capitalist rationality and rationalization. This is not necessarily the case, and I make no assumptions that a move toward capitalist rationalization was somehow an inevitable result of Soviet historical development. Second, the idea of modernity as it is used in social theory often conveys a sense of movement, flux, change, and individuality (see, for instance, Lash and Friedman 1992, p. 1). While it is clear that Soviet society was not "modern" in these senses, I do want to argue that alternative forms of cultural practice and identities did emerge within the infrastructure of modernity which was the result of the rationalization of Soviet society. Theorists of modernity since Simmel have recognized the dual character and often contradictory nature of modernity: it simultaneously expands and thwarts the process of individuation. Analysts of the Soviet Union (including Jowitt 1992; and Cushman 1988) have often stressed the collectivist nature of the Soviet Union. Certainly, a sense of collectivity, or kollektivnost', is an important aspect of Soviet culture. Yet its existence as a guiding norm of both Soviet political culture and culture at large does not preclude the existence of forms of individual expression within the infrastructure of Soviet modernity. Indeed, the quest for individitalnost', or individuality, which is outlined in the following pages might be seen as an attempt to escape from the domination of the cultural logic of kollektivnost'.

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