http://bocceclassic.com/modules/map26.php By focusing on the effects of context on scholarship, Mombauer has written a volume that would be appropriate for an undergraduate course on historiography or methods, as well as more substantive courses on European history. Mombauer presents two issues to the reader: the importance of political context for the writing of history and responsibility for war origins. In both cases I found her book a useful heuristic. Mombauer provides several excellent examples of the influence of political context on the scholarship concerning responsibility for the war.
Almost immediately after the war began, the combatant countries began issuing their respective "colored books" e. British citizen Edmund D. Morel served a prison sentence during the war for attempting to send copies of his treatise on British war guilt abroad p. Mombauer explains that governments had to mobilize their people to fight such a brutal and costly war.
After the war the Allied governments had to justify the harsh peace they planned to impose on Germany. Mombauer does an excellent job of describing how governments' desire to convey their own innocence and others' guilt affected the compilation of official document collections pp. Germany's foreign office even created a "War Guilt Section" to deal specifically with the issue p.
By the s, German elites wanted Germans to believe that Hitler's aggression had been an aberration, not a pattern deeply ingrained in the German psyche. When faced with Fischer's arguments that Germany's aggressive war aims drove it to force war in the German government sponsored the publication of a pamphlet intended for use in schools to refute Fischer's arguments pp. Mombauer does not support all of her assertions regarding the effects of context on scholarship. She argues, for example, that interwar British elites wanted to rehabilitate Germany in the eyes of their country so that the British public would accept German entry into the League of Nations.
While this argument is plausible, she fails to present any evidence that the conciliatory attitude of British elites influenced the more benign scholarly consensus on German war guilt that emerged during the period p. Context may influence scholarship directly through government action or indirectly through a public or scholarly community reluctant to consider new or dangerous ideas. While not explicitly addressing this question, Mombauer's book points toward the diverse avenues of influence between context and scholarship. Mombauer's Origins also raises the issue of what her narrative means for the study of history.
In her very brief conclusion, she states that "[h]istory is not an objective, factual account of events as they occurred, and historical accounts have to be read with a clear understanding of their provenance" p. Does this mean that all accounts are equally valid and just different because they have different origins? Can we expect scholarship on a particular topic to move closer to a "factual account of events as they occurred" over time?
Mombauer's book poses these important questions but fails to answer them or to refer the reader to others who might help. Responsibility for the war is the other thought-provoking theme of Mombauer's Origins. Mombauer's book is narrower than her title would lead us to believe. It focuses almost exclusively on the question of responsibility for the war, ignoring, for example, the recent literature on the "cult of the offensive" or alliance explanations for the war.
Should responsibility be assessed on the relative importance of a state's actions in causing the war? Certainly Germany's support of Austria and its declaration of war were important, but Russian support for Serbia and French support for Russia seem to have been crucial in bringing about the world war that ensued. American politicians have distorted the view of the Soviet Union developed in that document. Yet, Kennan's idea of containment rested on the assumption that the.
Soviet state, as an historical anachronism, was doomed to failure. The primary problem for American and Western leaders, according to Kennan, was to ensure that the inevitable collapse of the Soviet system be managed peacefully, and that any transition away from Soviet dictatorship not result in regional or world instability. Richard Pipes presented a guest lecture to an introductory course on the Soviet Union I was taking.
Pipes argued that the Soviet Union, as a bureaucratic dictatorship and as a nineteenth -century multi-national empire, would likely not survive to the end of the century. The strains of modernization and national self-determination, he argued, would pull the empire apart and force the collapse of a decaying and retrogressive political infrastructure. After the lecture, the course instructor questioned Pipes' assertion that within the following twenty-five years the USSR would cease to exist.
At the time, such a notion seemed patently absurd. What seemed ridiculous in became a reality in The work of liberal scholars such as Pipes is grounded in assumptions of historical contingency and the importance of political elites in shaping national destinies. Liberal scholarship focuses primarily on the formation of those elites as primary actors in historical change.
Liberal historians do not deny the influence of social factors. They understand that individuals act within the economic, political, and social constraints of their time. Yet, scholars such as Pipes and Laqueur believe that, essentially, it is the self-motivated actions of political leaders that determine the course of major events such as the Russian Revolution. But it sheds no new light on the motives and circumstances of the revolution.
His works exemplify the liberal emphasis on political biography. Robert Conquest's accounts of famine and political repression under Stalin helped popularize the liberal view that terror constituted the modus operandi of the Soviet political system.
The Origins of the First World War: Controversies and Consensus 1st Edition . H von Moltke Origin First World War (New Studies in European History) informative and lucid the book [has] a passionate feel that makes for a good read and. Buy The Origins of the First World War: Controversies and Consensus (Making History) 1 by Annika Mombauer (ISBN: ) from Amazon's Book.
His works stress Bolshevik in their titles, because the Bolshevik seizure of power is what Pipes believes was all about. Certainly, those who write within the liberal tradition disagree on issues of interpretation. Some, for example, emphasize the underlying importance of ideology over power politics to understand what motivated the Bolshevik and Soviet leaders. Others de-emphasize ideology altogether and interpret the Bolshevik revolution, especially Leninism and Stalinism, as a peculiarly nationalist and anti-Western form of modernization.
Frederick Barghoorn and H. Gordon Skilling used the. They conceived of the Communist Party and the Soviet government as a clearinghouse in which different institutional and corporate interests negotiated the division of scare resources. In this conception, politics was not the politics of ideology but of management. Skilling rejected this interpretation, re-emphasizing his belief in the ultimate political control of power by the Communist Party. Despite differences in interpretation, all the scholars above have written within the liberal historiographie tradition.
All have stressed the fundamentally retrogressive and anti-Western orientation of the Soviet state, and all have focused on the primacy of political elites in shaping the Soviet state and its history. Despite attempts to revise the totalitarian model, that model has remained central to the liberal view of the Soviet Union. The liberal view of Soviet history has shaped American governmental policy, as well as public opinion in North America and Great Britain. Academics such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry Kissinger, and Richard Pipes not only published scholarly works; they also acted as advisors and high government officials in successive American presidential administrations.
Popular wisdom says that Americans have been neophytes in the realm of European political diplomacy. Both the strength and weakness of American foreign policy lay in the country's lack of historical memory, its naivete about the intricate balancing of power and interests that have made the Europeans masters of diplomacy. Yet, American strategic thinking about Europe, even into the s, has been influenced by transplanted liberal intellectuals.
The virulence of American hatred for the USSR did not arise solely from geo-political rivalry or irreconcilable ideological differences. Public intellectuals and advisors such as Pipes, Laqueur, Brzezinski, and Kissinger all spoke of American interests. Privately, and not so privately, it was said they were using American power to fight political battles from an older Europe.
Challenges to liberal orthodoxy. In the late s and early s, American foreign policy came under attack, especially the policy of containing the Soviet Union and other communist countries. Criticism resulted from the catastrophe of the Vietnam war, the continued viability of the USSR, and the rise of a politically left-leaning generation on university campuses. As the political and ideological divide widened in American society, a new generation of scholars challenged the liberal consensus of the American intellectual establishment.
In the field of Soviet studies, the new school saw the Soviet experiment, not as a dying and dangerous phenomenon, but as an historically progressive and democratically reformable one. In contrast to the liberal, anti-Soviet outlook, many in the new generation of scholars openly sympathized with the Soviet revolution and the Soviet experiment, even if they did not support specific policies of the Soviet government.
New contacts between the two countries created academic exchanges and allowed American scholars to travel to and work in the USSR for extended periods of time. Such exchanges helped to break down ideological barriers on both sides. Historians were allowed, for the first time, to work in Soviet archives. Not all scholars subscribed to a sympathetic view of Soviet history, but all who came out of graduate schools during these years confronted the radical turn in American letters and intellectual life.
Even scholars not sympathetic to the Soviet experiment, at least believed that the liberal orthodoxy needed re-examination. Revisionism, as this new trend came to be called, was never a coherent school or movement, but those who sought an alternative to the reigning orthodoxy did so in social history. And the turn toward social history in Soviet studies coincided with a broad movement of change within the history profession.
As many authors have noted, the emergence of social history, or history from the bottom up, went hand in hand with the rise of radical historiography. Self-styled radical historians brought to social history an openly politicized agenda. Liberal consensus history, they believed, left out important social groups and comprised the record of only the socially dominant classes. Social history provided the means to achieve a more critical reading of the past, and on that basis, an agenda for current political action.
Social history in the 1 s and 1 s meant class, and many scholars studied class formation and the influence of class on the development of Soviet political culture. Most historians rejected the simplistic Soviet interpretation of class, but they endorsed the basic premise that the Soviet system had popular support, and that there was something called a class revolution that occurred there.
Understandably, much of the early work of revisionist scholars in Soviet history focused on the so-called revolution from below — the rise of radical labor movements in Russia and popular support for the Bolsheviks' seizure of power in This new generation of scholars sought the social sources of, and therefore social legitimization for, the Soviet revolution and the Bolshevik regime.
In the new interpretation, the revolution, especially the Bolsheviks' ascent, did not result from cynical manipulation by power-hungry elites; the seizure of power in October culminated a genuine and complex social upheaval. Allan Wildman's study of the Russian army showed how, in the early months of , support developed among the soldiery for Bolshevik solutions to issues of land, peace, and bread.
The path of Soviet history, like any history, was contingent. One could not reduce either the Bolsheviks' success or Stalin's rise to the terms of power and personal politics employed by liberal historians. Revisionists generally agreed on the social democratic character of the October Revolution. Stalin was another matter. The issue of Stalin's so-called third revolution of the s proved contentious within the new historiography. Explaining Stalinism offered challenges to any historian who attempted to understand Soviet history in terms other than simple power politics or authoritarian teleology.
And the issue of Stalin's "inevitability" or "necessity" was, of course, not new to the revisionists of the s and s. Stalin's place in history had divided the left ever since the. Was Trotskii right? Had Stalin perverted the revolution, betrayed Leninism, and brought about a Thermidorian reaction in the Soviet Union? Or, had Stalin's rule been the only alternative for Soviet socialism in the face of international isolation, the rise of fascism, and the weakness of liberal democracy?
Stephen Cohen, the Princeton political scientist turned historian, argued that Stalinism need not have happened. Cohen's biography of Nikolai Bukharin, the last and most ineffective of Stalin's opponents, provided a leftist alternative to Stalin. Even though Bukharin 's strain of moderate Bolshevism did not succeed, its existence more to the point, the existence of Cohen's book about Bukharin gave the lie to the liberal view that Stalinism was the only logical outcome of Leninism. Bukharin, according to Cohen's analysis, represented the Leninist alternative to Stalin's revolution. Ironically, while Cohen argued against the liberal interpretation of Stalinism, he did so within the liberal methodological framework.
Cohen argued that Stalinism was the outcome primarily of political infighting, thus accepting the liberal assumption about the primacy of power politics. In Britain, Robert Davies, an economic historian, came to different conclusions. Given the Communist Party's decision to industrialize the Soviet Union rapidly, argued Davies, some form of centralized, even authoritarian state, was inevitable. The decentralized, quasi-market economy of NEP was inadequate to the task of mobilizing the country's resources on the scale required by even moderate industrial growth.
Davies did not argue that Stalinism, as it developed in practice, was inevitable. But, almost. For the economic historian, Bukharinism provided no viable alternative to Stalinism. Davies' work supported and extended the massive multi-volume study of the Soviet state produced by Edward H. Carr, the renowned British historian of the postwar generation. Carr's central argument was that, given the hostile international environment and the impoverishment of Soviet society and economy, some form of authoritarian, strong state was inevitable if the Soviet regime were to survive. His fourteen volumes of Soviet history cover only from the revolution to the end of the s.
Yet, Carr wrote his study with Stalin in mind. These volumes stand as a prodigious achievement of scholarship. For Deutscher, Trotskii represented the flawed, classical hero of the revolution. Deutscher's biographical portraits of Trotskii retain an almost lyrical quality, in contrast to Carr's dense institutional and political histories. Yet Carr showed how naive, almost childish, Trotskii was to remain committed to the goal of a Europe-wide revolution, especially after the collapse of the German October in and the re-consolidation of bourgeois governments between and Bukharin's commitment to the quasi-capitalist political economy of NEP would have doomed the USSR in the face of hostile encirclement and the rise of strong-state forms of fascism.
Trotskii 's commitment to permanent revolution would have been equally disastrous. Stalin's retreat from revolution, to the defense of socialism in one country, was no mere tactic to undermine Trotskii's influence. In Carr's telling of the story, Stalin's advocacy of a national form of Bolshevism derived from a realistic. The issue of Stalin's necessity continued to preoccupy leftists on both sides of the Atlantic, and their debates influenced the work of revisionist historians.
Studies of the s and s workers' movements and culture by Bill Chase, Lynne Viola, and Hiroaki Kuromiya examined the social basis of support for Stalin's so-called revolution. Each showed how the government's partial retreat into capitalism during the s alienated key segments of the working classes, the principal basis of social support for the ruling regime. According to these historians, Stalin capitalized on and articulated broad based and genuine discontent when he launched his assault on the institutions and supporters of the New Economic Policy of the s.
The USSR was certainly no workers' state. Workers could not organize politically. They suffered at the hands of the regime as did other segments of the Soviet population. Yet, Filtzer and Ward show that workers were more than passive victims of a dictatorial regime. These studies detail how workers carved out a sphere of autonomy within the factory world, and defended their prerogatives against managerial and state encroachment. Filtzer and Ward show that, through individual and collective actions, workers shaped Soviet industrial relations in ways the regime neither intended nor entirely controlled.
In the United States, Lewis Siegelbaum's study of Stakhanovism and John Hatch's articles on workers clubs offered similar nuanced examinations of negotiation between workers and the regime over issues of status, privilege, and productivity. It was in this revisionist intellectual framework that Sheila Fitzpatrick produced her ground-breaking studies on the cultural revolution of the late s and the early s, and on Stalinism as a Jacobean combination of terror and social mobility. In fact, Fitzpatrick's work helped define what revisionism meant for scholarship on the s.
She argued that, despite its brutality — indeed, because of its violence — Stalinism as a political culture fulfilled the democratizing goals of the revolution. In , he published what must still be regarded as a premier set of essays laying out his interpretation of Stalinism.
According to Lewin, understanding Stalinism required going back before the revolution.
His collected essays examine different aspects of society and political culture from the last decades of the imperial regime to the beginnings of collectivization and rapid industrialization. Stalinism, as a set of specific policies and as a ruling culture, emerged from the clash of modernity and backwardness that. If Fitzpatrick recognized revolutionary continuity in Stalinism, Lewin did not. Rather, he emphasized the shaping influences of social deformation, brought about by war and Civil War, and the historical confrontation between a state bent on modernization and an inert and hostile peasantry.
In Lewin's view, the Russian tradition of bureaucratic statism combined with the violent destruction of autonomous political and social movements to produce the authoritarian characteristics of Stalinism. Stalin himself contributed the traits that stamped the regime with his despotic style. The work of Fitzpatrick and Lewin set the agenda for a generation of social historians. Their studies detailed the ways in which processes of social formation and destruction shaped early Soviet political culture. Yet, while many scholars followed this basic model, many also protested the characterization of their work as revisionism.
They did not want to be categorized so neatly in a kind of generational struggle against liberal historiography. In this sense, they were revisionist. They all strove to provide a broader reading of Soviet history than that offered within the writings of post-war liberal scholars. With the rise of this new wave of revisionist literature, the established liberal consensus among North American intellectuals began to look conservative.
In what seems like a contradiction, the liberals became "conservatives," and the leftists became "liberals," or revisionists. A liberal-cum- conservative consensus continued to dominate American and British foreign policy, especially in the neo-conservative administrations of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
Pipes' appointment to an advisory position in the Reagan administration testified to the political durability of the liberal view. Within the academic community, however, the growth of social history marginalized liberal scholarship. By the mid s, revisionist social history dominated Soviet historical studies. Walter Laqueur and Richard Pipes continued to write, and their publications received wide notice.
Yet, they produced few students in contrast to the numbers graduating from the country's major study centers. Sheer numbers, alone, overwhelmed the liberal consensus within the universities. In addition, while Laqueur engaged revisionism intellectually, even polemically, Pipes did not. Pipes' response to revisionism, as one reviewer wrote, was simply to ignore it.
Scholars of the new wave benefited from large amounts of government money designated to establish language and study centers in some of the major state universities in the United States and the new post-war "red brick" universities in Britain. Leopold Haimson produced several generations of graduate students at Columbia University. Robert Da vies and E. In , a refugee historian named Moshe Lewin joined the faculty at Birmingham and published one of the first systematic studies of state policies toward peasants in the late s and early s.
Although he produced few graduate students, Lewin and his work became an important center of reference for new scholarship. In contrast to Lewin, Haimson and Davies produced students who, along with other social historians, came to dominate academic positions in the United States and Britain, mostly in the non-elite universities.
All published their first books in the social and economic history of the interwar USSR. Several focused on the history of labor and the formation of the Soviet working class. Some wrote on other important social and professional groups, such as the scientific and technical intelligentsia, and how these groups shaped Soviet political culture. All gained positions in the late s and early s in British universities. In the United States, a similar movement occurred.
By the mids, a second generation of revisionist scholars established dominance over scholarly interpretations of the USSR, if not over the intellectual leadership of American foreign policy. Lewis Siegelbaum joined this midwestern group when he took a position at Michigan State University. Diane Koenker gathered a group of students around her at the University of Illinois. Reginald Zelnik became a one- person institution at Berkeley, and Sheila Fitzpatrick set up shop first at Columbia and eventually at the University of Chicago.
All of these scholars have published major works on the late imperial and early Soviet eras. All have produced graduate students, yet a third generation of scholars, who have been trained primarily in social history. Many of this generation have also entered the ranks of the professoriate. Revival of the old school and the collapse of revisionism. The break up of the USSR in the late s and early s brought new life to the liberal-cum-conservative point of view.
The end of the Soviet experiment seemed, finally, to justify Kennan's containment policy and the view of the USSR as an historical anachronism. For a brief period, Pipes was celebrated in the United States and in Russia. This was good timing for the Harvard professor, who published his major studies of the Russian Revolution in and Both of these works were translated into Russian, as was Stephen Cohen's classic work on Bukharin.
Pipes and Cohen became minor celebrities in Moscow, receiving recognition in the intellectual and journalistic press of the day. Cohen established a residence in the city. Among other activities, he advised the reform government of Mikhail Gorbachev. Pipes, on the other hand, eschewed high profile public involvement. Yet, his appearance in the former Communist Party archives in the early s, and the deference with which he was treated there, signaled, as clearly as any event, the intellectual demise of Soviet socialism. The appearance of other popular histories in the early s helped solidify the liberal interpretation of Soviet history.
Some of the most famous of the liberals — Brzezinski, Laqueur, Pipes — performed public autopsies on the Soviet Union and the world communist movement. The words "tragedy," "failure," "illusion" figure.
He referred to the Soviet experiment as a "deviant" form of modernity, a distorted consequence of historical trends arising out of the German Enlightenment and the democratizing influences of the French and industrial revolutions. As a result, according to Malia, the historical "logic" of Soviet socialism doomed it from the beginning.
Orlando Figes' book, A People s tragedy, though ambitious in size, is more modest in undertaking than the renderings by Malia, Pipes, Laqueur and Brzezinski. Rather than pronouncing on the whole of the twentieth century, Figes takes in a less grandiose, though still impressive, sweep of history — the end of the Russian empire and the revolutionary years. Hence, the emphasis on people in the title.
Figes refuses to condemn the Bolsheviks alone, for the "tragedy" of the revolution, as do Pipes and others. Figes accords blame all around. Yet, differences in moral judgments aside, this book, a best seller in Britain, describes the Russian Revolution exactly as the title indicates — a tragedy. All of these authors depict the Soviet experiment as an historical failure, more or less predictable, brought about primarily by Russian economic, social, and political backwardness. These authors find no redeeming value in the Soviet project. Revisionist scholars attempted to counter the resurgence of liberal interpretations.
In , for example, the British historian, Edward Acton, published a collection of essays about the revolution from the major social historians who have worked on that period. The collection, Critical companion to the Russian Revolution, examines all the social aspects of the Great War and the upheavals, including peasant party politics, and the revolution in rural areas and in provincial towns.
They are indispensable to any serious reading of Russian and Soviet history. The collection has been well reviewed in specialized journals, as have other social history collections on the revolutionary period and the years of the s. Yet these collections, like the work of other social historians, has gained little notice outside the academic world. Eric Hobsbawm's grand synthesis of the twentieth century, The age of extremes, is one of the few works by a leftist intellectual that has gained a wide readership.
Communism was not an unmitigated disaster, according to Hobsbawn, nor essentially antagonistic to "Western" values. On the contrary. The regimes and movements inspired by the October Revolution acted as a powerful "accelerating" force. They destroyed the vestiges of agrarian feudal societies and modernized the largest portion of the Eurasian continent.
Further, writes Hobsbawm, it was the regime placed in power by the Russian Revolution that saved the Western world from its own extremes. The victory over Hitler's Germany was "essentially won, and could only have been won," by the Soviet Union. Without it, contends Hobsbawm, our "world today would probably consist outside the U. It is one of the great ironies of the twentieth century that the lasting result of the October Revolution was to save the capitalist world it was bound to replace.
This was true not only in war, but also in peace. Hobsbawm argues that it was fear of the Soviet Union that provided the incentive for capitalist countries to enact progressive social and economic reforms in the decades following the Second World War. By "establishing the popularity of economic planning," the Soviet Union even furnished the West with some of the tools it needed for change. The success of welfare state capitalism, especially in Europe, brought opportunity and prosperity to an unprecedented percentage of the population.
Peace, stability, and economic growth resulted in the "Golden Age" of the twentieth century. That golden age, argues Hobsbawm, owed as much to the Soviet example, as to capitalist models. Yet, because of differing historical circumstances, the rise in living standards was uneven in the two halves of the continent. Improvements in the socialist East paled in comparison to advances in the capitalist West. Cold War protagonists made of this difference a compelling argument for the failure of communism.
Yet, historically, argues Hobsbawm, the achievements of Soviet modernity in Eastern Europe were no less dramatic than in the West. Europe's golden age lasted from the early s until the collapse of communism in the s and s. According to Hobsbawm, it was no coincidence that European stability and communism ended at the same historical moment. Europe's golden age so depended on the Soviet Union that the collapse of socialism precipitated a new era of upheavals and uncertainties. Hobsbawm does not whitewash the harsh, often brutal, character of Soviet-type regimes. Rather, his is a broad and discerning historical view.
Hobsbawm 's book has received wide acclaim. Yet like other leftist or revisionist interpretations, his remains a dissenting view. In North America and Great Britain, the liberal interpretation of Soviet socialism dominates public opinion. The Cold War ended in triumph for the forces of democracy and free markets. The Soviet Union was ruled by a totalitarian dictatorship, which has gone the way of all such dictatorships. With the collapse of the USSR, the intellectual consensus of revisionism fragmented — both the interpretive consensus and the methodological consensus which was based in social history and class analysis.
In Britain, many of the "Birmingham" scholars abandoned the social history of the early period, at least temporarily, and began working on contemporary topics. This turn took place, in part, because of the compelling nature of current events, but also because of the continuing economic crisis of the academic profession in Britain. By the late s, the conservative government's cutbacks had severely damaged academic studies and supporting agencies.
The British Economic and Social Research Council, which had provided major support for Soviet historical studies, began to give less money for historical topics, and more for topics of contemporary analysis. Suddenly, "transition" studies became the rage, and this was true in the United States as well as in Britain. Large numbers of instant studies appeared in the early and mids — studies that became dated almost as soon as they were published.
As a result, historical studies suffered, especially in Britain. This trend has been reflected in declining numbers of British graduate students doing research in Russia. In the mid- s, graduate students from the United Kingdom made up a significant contingent of Western scholars. Today that number has dropped considerably, to just a handful. One enterprising graduate student, whose situation typified the problem, wrangled a series of British television assignments to conduct interviews in Moscow. This work covered her expenses for several trips during the early s, while she tried to find time to conduct dissertation work on the history of the s.
Scholars continued to work, of course, even to thrive in the post-Soviet era. Established scholars of the left, once banned in the Soviet Union as bourgeois falsifiers, also returned. Lewin emigrated in and returned again to the USSR only in Since then, he has spent considerable time in Moscow. Shanin traveled widely throughout the USSR and its successor states. He has collected material from numerous regional archives, and has organized projects for the systematic study of Russian and Soviet agrarian history. Still, the collapse of the Soviet Union dramatically altered the context in which Soviet historians worked.
For those on the left, it often brought a reassessment of previously held assumptions. Much of this reassessment went on out of public view, but not always. In his book, The Soviet industrial economy in turmoil, , the British economic historian, Robert Davies, offers a candid summary of his intellectual shift. The book begins with a forward in which Davies acknowledges as "naive" his earlier view that the "fateful changes" that arose at the end of the s were the "necessary consequence" of rapid industrialization.
By "fateful changes" Davies means, at least, collectivization, dekulakization, and the growth of a state-managed and centrally planned economy. Whatever else he may mean is not clear, and Davies goes only so far in his change of mind. He still holds to the view that the kind of Soviet state that arose in the s was not the consequence simply of ideological or political processes. He insists that, ultimately, rapid industrialization was incompatible with the market economy of the s. Rapid industrialization, he writes, required some form of administrative system to replace the mechanisms of the New Economic Policy.
Davies traces his interpretive change to the emergence of new archive information and to a reassessment by the Soviets themselves of the formative period of the Stalinist years. Reassessment of previous positions characterized the work of many scholars in North American universities during the late s and s. Some social historians prominent in the s and s are no longer as productive as they once were, or they have changed the direction of their work.
Some have moved from study of social support for the Soviet regime to resistance to it. For several years, he has been engaged in a study of the Bolshevik apparatchik, Georgii Piatakov. In addition, Graziosi has organized publication of several important archive collections that shed new light on the relations among Bolshevik leaders. In the late s, Lewin published his own short version of the Gorbachev revolution. In recent years, he has turned his attention to collecting social historical material from the post- World War II decades, all of this with an eye to documenting the origins and process of decay of the Soviet system.
Certainly, social history has not died. Some scholars continue to use social- historical methods to work on new topics. Italics, mine. Lewin uses the book to trace revolutionary changes in post-World War II Soviet society: urbanization, increased social mobility and educational advances, and advances in print culture and science and technology — all the positive achievements of Soviet modernity which produced a generation of reformers like Gorbachev.
Thus, Lewin continues to employ the methods of social history, even to the study of new topics defined by the end of the Soviet Union. It is also not quite accurate to say that Lewin's interest in post- World War II history is new, or a distraction from his main interest in earlier periods. His recent research on the origins of the Soviet collapse complements work he has published on the "undercurrents" of reform within Soviet political culture and society. He continues to study the Soviet state and Soviet political culture using the methods of social history.
Just as important, he does not see the end of the Soviet Union as proof of its inevitable demise. In Lewin's view, as in the view of other major leftist historians, the collapse of the Soviet experiment was an historically contingent and complex process. It did not result from some inherent weakness of socialism. Indeed, Lewin has never called the Soviet state socialist, although he has argued that it contained socialist characteristics. The Soviet state fell apart because the ruling bureaucracy failed to adapt to the processes of modernity which its leaders helped create.
That those seeds did not grow had to do, not with some essential flaw in Soviet culture, but with the course of political struggles after Stalin's death. Lewin's current reading in post-war Soviet history focuses on the political and economic choices that led to collapse instead of reform. Lewin has not abandoned his interest in older topics of social history. He, like other social historians, continues his work on traditional subjects. Arch Getty continues to read his way through Communist Party archives to prove his arguments about the origins of the Great Purges.
Judging from the ubiquitous presence of Rittersporn 's signature on the reading list of archive files, he could open a branch filial out of his lap top computer. In Canada, Lynne Viola, Peter Solomon and their colleagues at the University of Toronto have amassed a significant archive of social history for the s. The productivity of this group of scholars is remarkable. They have established the University of Toronto as a major center for graduate study, and have been influential in the collaborative publication of important archive collections about the Russian and Soviet peasantry.
This project has entailed an unprecedented degree of collaborative work between American and Russian scholars to present social history in accessible documentary form. Two of the most significant volumes to be published will be Voice of the people and Stalinism as a way of life: a narrative in documents.
Both have been published in Russian, and are being edited for the Yale project, respectively, by Jeffrey Burds and Lewis Siegelbaum. If social -class history is not dead, it is no longer the dominant paradigm in Soviet studies. The collapse of the USSR dealt a severe blow to the revisionist project, while giving new life to the liberal interpretation of Soviet totalitarianism.
Yet the demise of the Soviet Union has not been the only cause for the decline of revisionist history. As Peter Novick explains in his book, That noble dream, a new sensitivity has emerged in historical scholarship to the influence of language, culture, and local context on the formation of social identity. Much of this new awareness came from European, especially French, intellectual trends from as early as the s and s. These finally made their way into North American historical thinking by the mid and late s.
Hayden White's influential essays on language also contributed to a "deconstruction" of traditional historical narratives and to new thinking among American academics. Both challenged traditional social- historical approaches by examining the language of radical labor groups. Both scholars argued that these movements arose out of eighteenth-century bourgeois and even pre-modern artisanal guild traditions, not out of a class-conscious understanding of workers' position in relation to property ownership.
Jones, especially, provided one of the early and most articulate manifestos of the new thinking. In the introduction to his Languages of class, he argued that, historically, language shapes social consciousness rather than reflects it. In this same vein, Lynn Hunt turned the French Revolution from a social, political, and economic upheaval into a semiotic one by exploring its symbolic meanings. She showed that symbolic representations did more than reflect an underlying political reality; symbols made sense of chaotic events and shaped political alternatives during each stage of the revolution.
Scholars in a number of fields have abandoned traditional approaches to social and class history by examining different sources for the construction of identity and the expression of power. New interest has arisen in the meanings of carnivals, festival cultures, parades, official ceremonies, even fashions, all of which express politics and identities in ways that are outside economically defined relations of social status.
In his book, Wortman draws conclusions about the historical development and viability, or the lack of it, of the tsarist autocracy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. On the basis of this kind of cultural history, he concludes that, while Russia was struggling to define itself as a nation, the autocracy could not make that transition. Thus, Wortman argues, Russian tsarism was doomed, regardless of whether Russia's path to modernity lay through evolution or revolution. What is interesting here is not so much the conclusion of autocratic obsolescence.
Other authors also reached this conclusion. Of more interest is how Wortman arrives at this conclusion. He offers no social analysis, no analysis of economic development, no attempt to draw political conclusions from traditional types of structural history. This is not history of the revisionist school, but a new kind of cultural history. Wortman accepts the historical significance of symbol and ceremony, which he believes both reflected and shaped political life.
In her book, Laura Engelstein examines a different kind of politics — the politics of sexuality and gender in late tsarist society. Like Wortman, Engelstein, who was a student of Reginald Zelnik at Berkeley, now at Princeton, does not base her work on traditional economic, class, or social history.
Engelstein analyzes texts novels, pamphlets, treatises, etc. According to Engelstein, Russian middle-class anxiety about social and political stability focused on a fascination for, and concern about, licentious behavior. If the old order fostered unhealthy habits by repressive constraints on desire, modern life produced equally harmful results by allowing unfettered desire to reign. And while processes of modernity had loosened the hold of traditional patriarchal institutions on social and political life, the middle classes were still too weak to impose their own ideals of social discipline and public virtue.
Through her analysis, Engelstein makes clear that middle-class anxiety was about more than issues of sex. Fascination with licentious behavior, especially prominent after the revolutionary upheavals, represented a coded fear of the libidinous political excesses of the lower classes during those disorders.
Thus, Engelstein asserts, her book is not just about science and hygiene, it is about Russian liberalism. It is a study of the attempt by middle-class liberals to reconstruct a civic order that would channel desire social and political into acceptable forms, and which would avoid the extremes of authoritarian coercion and anarchy. Russian liberalism failed, of course, and in the decades following , Russia experienced the consequences of both extremes. The revolution of plunged the country into bloody anarchy. Following that, the new Bolshevik regime re-established an administrative and authoritarian state harsher than the one it replaced.
The studies by Wortman and Engelstein represent the new cultural history at its best. Both depart, in bold strokes, from the social and economic models of historical writing that dominated the s and s. The appearance of these works brought the new history four square into the field of Soviet studies. These books provided new models for historians, many of whom had been trained in social history, to reorient their thinking and writing. Through individual study and conference sessions, in graduate seminars and reading groups, scholars in the Soviet field began to rethink old categories and to seek new approaches, new language, and new topics that would address the new history.
The books by Engelstein and Wortman appeared at about the same time as the volume of essays, Making workers Soviet: power, class, and identity. Published in , this collection arose out of a conference held at Michigan State University in Every aspect of the collection that resulted from the conference speaks to the editors' intentions. The title intentionally or unintentionally is not clear echoes Eugen Weber's famous study of the imposition of modernity in rural France, Peasants into Frenchmen.
Class, they write, like Anderson's conception of. The Soviet working class, they contend, was constructed, deconstructed, and reconstructed through the conflicting images of those who believed they were a part of it, and a regime that wished to impose its own definitions.
The essays are a mixture of the old and new social history. Some authors describe, in the confident prose of the old style, the formation of class consciousness in the pre-revolutionary years. Others question whether workers actually thought about themselves in the language of class. Some examine how workers thought about themselves in contrast to the regime that supposedly ruled in their name. Still others explain how the regime attempted to co-opt the definition of class, and, conversely, how workers co-opted the state's definition for their own purposes.
Several contributors wondered, indeed, whether the definition of working class had any meaning at all in the non-capitalist conditions of the Soviet economy. The editors of this volume intended for it to chart a new course in Soviet social history. Yet, its appearance sparked no controversy, no new research, and no new synthesis. This collection represents a culmination rather than a beginning; it may be the last volume specifically on workers as a class that will be seen for some time.
From class to biography to community. Two of the most prominent social historians of the s and s, Reginald Zelnik and Sheila Fitzpatrick, have turned away from traditional class history. Zelnik's book, A radical worker in tsarist Russia, is not about striking workers and class movements; it is the annotated translation of the diary of a single worker, a man named Semen Kanatchikov. Zelnik's goal is to investigate how an individual became socialized in the milieu of radical politics in tsarist Russia. Zelnik makes no grand claims for this study. Yet, the point of Zelnik's translation is disturbing for traditional leftists.
As Zelnik argues, Kanatchikov became radicalized because of peculiar, even accidental events in his life. Kanatchikov's radicalism arose out of a psychological quest for self-meaning, not out of an historically determined assessment of his economic and political circumstances as a worker.
According to Zelnik, political radicalism provided the vehicle for Kanatchikov to realize a "higher purpose" in his "wanderings from factory to factory. Like Zelnik, Fitzpatrick has become fascinated with the social construction of individual identities. In her work on fictional and real con-men in the s, Fitzpatrick goes further even than Zelnik in emphasizing the mutability of social identity.
The Ostap Bender novels, she argues, articulated in fictional form a fragmented social process of formation and re-formation, of creation, falsification, and re-construction of social identity. Fitzpatrick comes close to rejecting the notion of class as having any stable social reality in the Stalinist period, despite the attempt by the regime to give it meaning. As both Zelnik and Fitzpatrick move further into the complex study of social identity, their work opens up the problem, once again, of how to explain collective consciousness and mass social action.
If we can no longer speak of class consciousness in the way historians used this term in the s and s, how then do we explain large numbers of workers, soldiers, and sailors collectively demanding that the Soviets seize power in July ? What becomes of the collective social support for the Stalinist revolution, about which Fitzpatrick wrote in her earlier work? The work by Zelnik, Fitzpatrick, and others seems to concede the validity of the old liberal arguments of social atomization. If there is no validity to the idea of collective social consciousness, how then can we explain the Bolshevik seizure of power in or Stalin's dictatorship?
Historians seem to be left with nothing but traditional arguments about the personalities, manipulations, and power politics of elite leaders, such as Lenin, Trotskii, Stalin, et al. Society as an autonomous historical actor seems to disappear as collective consciousness dissolves into individual biography. This is not quite a fair assessment. Neither Fitzpatrick nor Zelnik accepts the argument of social atomization. Neither denies the historical reality of social consciousness and mass action. Yet, both reject the traditional class understanding of social consciousness based solely or even primarily on a collective assessment of economic circumstances.
In the works cited above, each scholar returns to individual biography to understand the web of life experiences that shaped the way individuals thought about their world. In more recent studies, each has moved from the individual back to the social. In his book on the Kreenholm textile workers strike of , Zelnik emphasizes that, when the strike began, workers were "without any notion, whether abstract or operational, of a new, more rational factory order, let alone an order based on law. These elements did not include a strong identification with class, but a more diffuse and historically rooted sense of privilege and pride, as well as a basic sense of honor and fairness.
In her book on the Soviet countryside, and in her forthcoming book on "everyday" Stalinism, Fitzpatrick emphasizes kinship ties, blat influence peddling , old notions of peasants' rights, and current notions of citizenship to argue that Soviet citizens retained or developed a sense of social cohesion separate from class.
Both Zelnik and Fitzpatrick have developed an understanding of social consciousness and collective action that is broader, more mutable, and more rooted in a specific time and place than the older notion of class. Two of Zelnik's most prominent former students have attempted to rescue social consciousness from class definitions. In his book, Moral communities: the culture of class relations in the St. Petersburg printing industry, Mark Steinberg attempts to redefine the basis of class consciousness among Russian workers. The arrangement of words imparts the basic message of the.
Steinberg argues that workers developed a highly sophisticated sense of moral values, based on a number of influences, including Christianity, socialism, liberalism, etc. Workers certainly felt that they were the victims of moral injustice, and that they had a right to have that injustice made good.