The Soviet Administrative Elite

By Kenneth C. Farmer | Go to book overview

anyone who can acquire sponsorship, though a very efficient political gate-keeping mechanism does exist. It is difficult to measure attitudes, but from what is known of the nomenklatura it is almost certain that they are conscious of themselves as an exclusive elite. Mervyn Matthews remarks with respect to the Soviet elite that "the sharing of privilege and a common social distance from the masses must encourage at least a certain unity among them."124

It is less on the third or fourth than on the fifth criterion that the Soviet political elite fails as a ruling class. It is an artificial elite, as I have repeatedly stressed, and its status is derivative of, not determinative of, political power, coming either from state or Party position. If a Soviet leader loses his nomenklatura status, he simultaneously loses his membership in the ruling class. There is, therefore, no ruling class apart from the nomenklatura. This artificial class system affects class relations in the rest of society. Zaslavskaia remarks that "it is quite noteworthy that the popular mind pits not collective farmers against workers or those who do physical labor against members of the intelligentsia but, above all, the 'governors' against the 'governed.'"125

There are, of course, significant activities outside the purview of the state, including not only often highly remunerative black and grey markets but other demimondes as well of varying scope and scale. Often, perhaps more often than not, these overlap with the Party and the state through individuals strategically located in both arenas, via activities over which the state nominally claims monopoly of jurisdiction, or through the arrogation to such arena of resources belonging to the state. Thus, the state in socialist society (meaning the Party-state), it would seem, is not autonomous, not very well integrated, and, truth be told, rather weak.

Since it is not a mainstream assertion, the thesis of the essential weakness of the Soviet state deserves some amplification. Weak actors, to borrow some of the language of game theory, cannot marshal sufficient resources consistently to win within the game's rules. A weak actor can win only when it can restructure the game in such a way that its opponents are rule constrained while it is not. To use more prosaic language, weak actors cheat. A state that can maintain itself over time only by extraconstitutional coercion is weak. Structurally weak states require large internal police forces or powerful external patron states. Examples of the rapidity with which they fall when that is removed are legion: Vietnam in 1975, Nicaragua and Iran in 1979, the East European Communist regimes at the end of the 1980s, and the Soviet state itself in the summer of 1991.


NOTES
1.
Gaetano Mosca, The Ruling Class ( New York: McGraw-Hill, 1939), p. 53.
2.
George E. Marcus, "'Elite' as a Concept, Theory, and Research Tradition,"

-180-

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The Soviet Administrative Elite
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables and Figures ix
  • Preface xi
  • Chapter 1- Introduction: The Theoretical Context 1
  • Notes 25
  • Chapter 2- Educating the Elite 31
  • Notes 66
  • Chapter 3- Elite Structure 73
  • Notes 96
  • Chapter 4- The Stalinist Transformation 101
  • Notes 140
  • Chapter 5- Elite-Society Relations 149
  • Notes 180
  • Chapter 6- Elite Recruitment and Mobility 189
  • Notes 220
  • Chapter 7 - Venality 225
  • Notes 245
  • Chapter 8- Iron Teeth: The Gorbachev Transformation 251
  • Notes 280
  • Selected Bibliography 285
  • Index 291
  • About the Author 297
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