The Russian Sociological Review, 2023 (1) en-us Copyright 2023 Fri, 31 Mar 2023 02:24:48 +0300 Against the Tyranny of Truth The place of truth in the public sphere and public politics has recently been shattered, as evidenced by the rise of concepts like “post-truth”. Severe concerns about truth being defenseless in the face of the masses embracing lies gave rise to the fears that unchained democracy together with the newest communication technologies threatens the destruction of the rational public sphere. This paper proposes a distinctly political approach to the challenges that truth is facing. It draws on Gabriel Tarde’s idea of publics as crowds to direct the attention towards political experiences sustaining the prevalence of different sorts of lying and truth-denial in the public sphere. Hannah Arendt’s observations on the inherent tensions between truth and politics are employed to demonstrate that the imposition of truth can be tyrannical and trigger its rejection as a properly political rebellious response. The paper proposes to differentiate between two distinct political-emotional experiences behind anti-truth politics, those of truth-rejection and truth-hostility, the latter resulting from a massive depoliticization and filled with cynicism and nihilism. It is argued that attempts to protect truth by extra-political means misapprehend the causes of resistance against truth, and are likely to result in the more destructive reactions. The paper hints at the need for re-establishing the political legitimacy of truth. The concept of messianic time by Walter Benjamin and its political implications Despite Benjamin’s “renaissance” in contemporary research literature, the meaning of the concept of Jetztzeit(“Now-time”), one of his key political and philosophical concepts, remains vague, largely due to the tendency of researchers to follow Benjamin‘s narrative and metaphorical style. The author of this article purposely uses a strict analytical approach to capture the key characteristics of the concept and their relationship to each other. To do this, the concept is analyzed in the first part of the article through the prism of the related concepts of “messianic time” and “kairos time”. In the second part, the author traces the possible political implications of different interpretations of the concept itself and its connection with Benjamin’s concept of “divine violence”, showing that different interpretations lead to diametrically-opposite perceptions of Benjamin’s position, from a supporter of “pure criticism” to an activist of “direct actions”. In conclusion, the significant role of the Benjamin project as an alternative to the “mainstream” of the Frankfurt School (Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer) is pointed out in the context of today’s prospects for the revival of the Marxist political utopia. For a critical and dispassionate constructivism: revisiting the concept of the ‘Global East’ in its relevance to Central Asia This article discusses A. Chokobayeva and N. Shelekpayev’s critique of Müller’s concept of the ‘Global East’ to describe the former socialist East, as well as their proposal to adopt a ‘tactical essentialism of national discourses’, which they consider necessary for the production of social science research in Central Asia, liberated from Russian interpretations of the past and present. Consequently, the article discusses the limitations of major paradigms, including that of the “Global East”. It argues that this term ignores the fact that the scholarly field it is supposed to unite is divided by a post-colonial configuration that fosters divergent views. Furthermore, it highlights that this notion also neglects the crucial issue of research autonomy from political affairs. Finally, the article critiques the use of tactical essentialism as a response to these issues. However, the promotion of essentialism — be it tactical or strategic — in Central Asian studies, despite its laudable ambition to move away from imperial and neo-imperial narratives, can exacerbate organic, essentialist and nationalist visions of identity and nation already prevalent in political powers and public opinion. Therefore, the authors argue for a methodological postulate of critical and dispassionate constructivism that guarantees as much autonomy as possible for research in and on Central Asia. Between Essentialism and Multiple Identities: Central Asia as Part of the East, South and the World In this article, the author reflects on the issues raised by two Central Asian scholars, Nari Shelekpayev and Aminat Chokobaeva, in their comments on Martin Müller’s idea of the “Global East”, as well as on this idea itself. In Central Asia, as well as in Russia, essentialism is widespread; it is difficult to call it “tactical,” as Shelekpayev and Chokobaeva do. They correctly consider the “Global East” to be a political project, but its political nature must be understood based on the concept of the “Global South” as an emancipatory project against the domination of the North and Eurocentrism. Eurocentrism, as manifested even in Müller’s article, is still strong in the academic world. However, in today’s world, where the rivalry is getting fiercer between the great powers, including the powers of the South and the East, it is difficult for the emancipatory strategies of the Global South or Global East to succeed. Small countries and middle powers need the tact to respond flexibly to changing conditions and working with different partners. In this respect, Central Asia’s multiple identities can be beneficial to it. How should we do Central Asian history today? Our response to Isabel Ohayon, Julien Thorez, and Tomohiko Uyama This text is a response to Isabelle Ohayon, Julien Thorez, and Tomohiko Uyama, who commented on our essay that was published two years ago in this journal. We argue that “tactical essentialism,” embraced by Central Asian scholarly communities to circumvent external academic and political pressure, is not equivalent to biological primordialism. We also discuss the commemoration of the 1916 uprising in Kyrgyzstan to demonstrate how the production of history in Central Asia involves the participation of local communities. The socio-historical agenda in the region is fluid and is not dictated solely by the state, as our interlocutors suggest. The choice on a marriage market or the God’s will? On practical and substantial rationalities in orthodox dating platform users’ categories Online-dating, or the practice of searching for a partner on the Internet, is becoming more widespread and legitimate these days. According to some researchers, the search process is quite rationalized. This is underpinned by the fact that such platforms presuppose standard profiles, filters usage, and strike for a “better offer” just like on a market, stimulating users to reflect upon their performance. At the same time, there are religious online-dating platforms as well with their specific partner search normativity (i.e., Orthodox). Thus, there is a contradiction between the market practical rationality evoked by online-dating platform logics and substantial Orthodox Christian rationality, with the latter considering only marital relations as good, sacred and also, notably, those God has agency in. Relying on M. Weber’s conception of rationality, a grounded theory approach and an empirical base of 14 interviews, the paper reconstructs partner search rationality in the online-dating platform users’ categories (here, in the case of a popular Orthodox platform). Practical rationality is reconstructed in the “active search”, “time”, “convenience”, and “simplification” categories. For substantial rationality, which may contradict the practical one, such categories are “soulmate” and “consumer attitude”. The overcoming of the contradiction between the two rationalities is described in the categories of “self-control” and “the fight against temptation”. In regard to the relationship between an individual’s agency and God’s agency on the platform, although the informants believe active actions are required, the search for a marriage partner inevitably ends at “the God’s will point” — the result of what God wants. Education and Revolutionary Destabilization Risks: A Quantitative Analysis There is a significant number of theoretical studies linking education and socio-political destabilization. At the same time, there is an almost complete absence of global quantitative cross-national studies analyzing the impact of education on the risks of revolutionary uprisings. This research is aimed to fill the existing gap. The existing literature shows that education contributes to the accumulation of human capital, develops a culture of discussion and tolerance, and makes people more susceptible to liberal democratic values. On the one hand, these factors raise the population’s expectations of and demands on the authorities. On the other hand, they increase the relative costs of participating in any type of demonstrations. In this regard, it is hypothesized that formal education enrollment: (1) will reduce the likelihood of armed revolutionary campaigns, which are associated with greater risks and uncertainty for participants, but (2) will be curvilinearly correlated to the risks of unarmed campaigns, since in the early and active stages of modernization there will be a positive relationship, while in the most developed countries it will be negative. Accordingly, it follows that education in general is negatively associated with any revolutionary actions. The analysis uses 10,350 observations (with 387 revolutionary events) from 1950 to 2019, based on extended-release NAVCO data and a combination of the Barro and Lee Education Research Project with information from the UNDP (with cross-validation on the basis of the authors’ own database). The main research methods were cross-tabulation and correlation-regression analyses with the construction of probability functions. Pointless labor, bullshit jobs, and organizational absurdity: new directions for institutional theory This essay is dedicated to the synthesis of two strands in the field of organizational studies, those of institutional theory and the study of meaningless labor. Institutional theory was one of the first to turn its attention to the inconsistent and ineffective actions performed within the organization, offering a conceptual apparatus for their analysis. Such phenomena, according to the institutional point of view, actually performed a certain function, allowing organizations to match the requirements of their institutional environment. However, over time, corporate reality became increasingly filled with labor which seemed meaningless and useless even to those who participate in it. Hence, institutionalism lost its explanatory power. Formed almost in parallel, the study of meaningless labor has analyzed these trends in the spread of stupidity, bullshit, and absurdity in modern organizations on alternative theoretical grounds. In this paper, I describe aspects that institutional theory can borrow from the study of meaningless labor, that is, the attention to personal dissatisfaction and the intentional organizational avoidance of any institutional rules. Anthony Giddens and civilizational analysis: modernity between reflexivity and culture Based on the critical reconstruction of the diagnosis of modernity by A. Giddens, the article traces the logic of the transition from the institutional to the civilizational approach in the sociological discourse of “modernity”. The analysis focuses on the problem of the relationship between culture and reflexivity. In Giddens’ theory of radical modernity, reflexivity is opposed to culture, which is identified with tradition. According to the theory of multiple modernities that are genetically related to the sociological paradigm of civilizational analysis, tradition and reflexivity are correlated as two aspects of culture characterized by aspirations, on the one hand, to the reproduction of interpretive foundations that set a general context of meaning, and, on the other, to trans-contextual breakthroughs that open up new horizons of meaning. Both tendencies are in irreparable tension between themselves and are mediated in the capacity of culture to rationalization, during which the self-articulation of culture turns into its self-problematization. The combination of rationality with reflexivity leads to cultural innovation and interpretative shifts and, at least, potentially to new cultural crystallizations, allowing higher levels of self-problematization (J. P. Arnason). In different cultural and historical patterns, the ability to rationalize receives an uneven and specific development. Modernity is a “distinct civilization” (S. N. Eisenstadt), in which the tendencies of culture towards self-articulation in conflicting directions and towards self-problematization reach a level unprecedented in human history, giving rise to multiple configurations of social life intertwined with relatively autonomous dynamics of power and wealth. Although Giddens did not make a “civilizational turn” in his work, his institutional analysis of modernity closed with his formulating the problem of conjugation of culture and power, which is key for the civilizational approach in sociology. However, the same problematic also marked the limit of understanding modernity in Giddens’ theory; he recognized the incomprehensibility of the social world in which reflexivity was institutionalized. His further path was a one of utopian modeling and political implementation of the future post-modern world, rather than a one of scientific analysis of modernity. S. Kierkegaard and K. Schmitt: the Eternal Repetition of the Same Political The review considers the main statements of Vladimir Bashkov’s research on the influence of S. Kierkegaard’s philosophy on the political concept of K. Schmitt. The review notes that the author consistently draws structural parallels between their ideas. It is determined that there is a “translation” of Kierkegaard’s images and conceptual row into Schmitt’s conceptual language in Bashkov’s study, As the best example of the connection between their ideas, the review suggests considering the connection of Schmitt’s criticism of “political romanticism” with Kierkegaard’s criticism of the aesthetic attitude from the ethical side. Also, the undoubted advantage of Bashkov’s book is the discovery of a common search for “authentic” by both Kierkegaard and Schmitt. The review also notes that the disadvantages of the study, which includes both the lack of consideration of some modern research on issues close to the topic of the book and the fact that the author eventually associates about the need to search for the “authentic” with Kierkegaard and Schmitt, which deprives him of distance in relation to the subject of research, turning him from a researcher to a follower of Kierkegaard and Schmitt. According to the reviewer, this is what leads the author to positivize the dictatorship. However, at the same time, the review notes that the positive side of the study is the justification of the possibility of the instrumentalization of Kierkegaard’s and Schmitt’s concepts. Max Weber’s understanding psychology Book review: Frommer J., Frommer S. (2022) Max Weber und das psychologische Verstehen: werksgeschichtliche, biographische und methodologische Perspektiven. Göttingen: V & R unipress. — 202 S. ISBN: 9783737012645. Durkheimian Tradition Through The Eyes Of The Cultural Sociologist Book Review: Smith P. (2020) Durkheim and After: The Durkheimian Tradition, 1893-2020. New York: John Wiley & Sons. Gleb Pavlovsky. In memory of homo politicus