Maxim Fetisov 1, 2
  • 1 National Research University Higher School of Economics, 20 Myasnitskaya Str., Moscow, 101000, Russian Federation
  • 2 Kozlova Center for Social Theory and Political Anthropology, Department ot Pholosophy, Russian State University for the Humanities, Miusskaya sq., 6, GSP-3, Moscow, Russian Federation 125993

Theory and Narrative in Soviet Studies: The Relevance of Natalya Kozlova’s Thought for the Political Theory of Modernity

2017, vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 227–246 [issue contents]

This article is intended to present and reconstruct the original theoretical vision of the Soviet society elaborated by the Russian social theorist, philosopher, and political anthropologist Natalya Kozlova (1946–2002). In contrast to common media and theoretical wisdom tagging Soviet society as “totalitarian,” Kozlova proposed a vivid theoretical picture consisting of diverse everyday practices and social techniques comprising the Soviet version of modernity. This picture is based on the thorough sociological and anthropological analysis of different autobiographical narratives and diaries of everyday life as written by ordinary actors of Soviet modernization. The theoretical analysis of the Soviet modernity presented in this “bottom-up” perspective radically puts the theoretical relevance of any unifying and undifferentiated dominant political and ideological concepts and narratives that depict its history as the one of endless repression leaving no room for the actions of individual actors to be brought into question. The article analyses the detrimental influence of widespread media and theoretical narratives based on such ideologically informed concepts as “totalitarianism,” “internal colonization,” or “open society” on the theoretical conceptualization of the Soviet experience. It argues that the mainstream, uncritical usage of these stigmatizing narratives in the Russian media and in social science impedes new ways of thinking about the Soviet experience. Following the theoretical insights revealed by the research project of Natalya Kozlova, the paper explores the topics of agency, power, and the production of subjectivity while proposing the invention of ways for a more sophisticated comprehension of Soviet society within a wider context of the political theory of modernity.

Citation: Fetisov M. (2017) Narrativ i teoriya v issledovaniyakh sovetskogo: znachenie issledovaniy N. N. Kozlovoy dlya sovremennoy politicheskoy teorii [Theory and Narrative in Soviet Studies: The Relevance of Natalya Kozlova’s Thought for the Political Theory of Modernity]. The Russian Sociological Review, vol. 16, no 1, pp. 227-246 (in Russian)
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