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You may send this item to up to five recipients. In a series of highly influential books and essays, he argued that the predominantly peasant nature of Russia ended up overwhelming the process of modernization embarked on by the socialist regime, particularly because the regime had difficulty understanding its options vis-a-vis the peasantry and also because the peasantry supposedly underwent a process of "archaization" in the prolonged dislocation following the downfall of the old regime.

The "backwardness" of the rural social structure, in the hands of a group of poorly comprehending and impetuous leaders, culminated ironically in the establishment of a "backward" and "demonized" authoritarian political system. During what he called the descent into a "quicksand society" and the "ruralization of the cities" that supposedly occurred during the initial stages of the Stalin revolution, he wrote that "the whole social structure" was "sucked into the state mechanism, as if entirely assimilated by it.

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A self-proclaimed socialist, Lewin vehemently denied that such a "system" could in any way be equated with socialism, in effect scorning the self-perception not only of the Soviet regime but of millions of Soviet inhabitants. Whereas Fitzpatrick and her followers have attempted to analyze the supposed role social groups played in the state's policy decisions and ethos, Lewin has treated society more or less as an aggregate "force," akin to gravity, that exerted an almost invisible pull on the course of events.

Ultimately, however, these varying approaches converged on the bottom-line proposition that the Stalinist state was permeated throughout by social influences, a notable modification of the then prevailing one-sided view on state-society relations in the Stalin era. Lewin and Fitzpatrick have rarely admitted the existence of common ground between them, yet it is striking that in carrying out their respective projects of revisionism, both have tended to view Stalinism as an end to the revolution and something of a return, under conditions of great stress, to nonrevolutionary traditions.

She has emphasized, furthermore, this reversal's apparently logical development, essentially benign nature, and long-term stability, while he has argued, by contrast, that the Stalinist modernization was far from inevitable, 21 highly "pathological" and yet in dialectical fashion contained the means for its own "cure" in the long-term process of urbanization, whereby an urban social structure replaced the rural one. In the end, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the turn to social history has led to the replacement of the manifestly flawed totalitarian thesis by the basic perspective laid down by Leon Trotsky, the revolution's greatest loser.


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  • To the vast majority of those who lived it, and even to most of its enemies, Stalinism, far from being a partial retreat let alone a throwback to the Russian past, remained forward-looking and progressive throughout. By virtue of its rejection of capitalism and its dramatic internal development, the USSR assumed the role of antifascist bulwark during a time when elsewhere reaction or indecisiveness appeared to be the order of the day.

    For Condorcet, among others, science offered "the means to transform the social world" at the same time as it "suggested the model of the rational social organization to be implemented. To be sure, the revolution brought forth a variety of applications, including the ideas and practices of liberalism, a "radical" strand of republicanism rooted in notions of equality, and Bonapartist dictatorship.

    But each of these different traditions emerged from the common source of what came to be called "revolutionary politics. Rather than a democratic order in the name of the nation, which allegedly concealed the class rule of the bourgeoisie, the Russian revolutionaries envisioned what was supposed to be a more inclusive order founded on the putative universality of the proletariat. Paradoxically, the goal of greater inclusiveness was to be reached by means of fierce class warfare and exclusion. Nonetheless, in the reinvention of revolutionary politics on the basis of class, the Russian revolutionaries were still following the central vision of the Enlightenment.

    The Russian revolution, too, was about using politics as a means for creating a rational, and therefore just, social order. Not only did the revolution in the Russian empire partake of the most highly valued traditions in European history, but even the revolution's ostensibly exotic class character was quintessentially European, an effect of the nineteenth-century fossil-fuel industrialization that had swept England and the continent and rendered problematic the universalism of the Enlightenment's vision. It was, of course, Karl Marx who combined the Enlightenment's application of scientific rationality to society with the French revolution's discovery of the magic of politics and proclaimed the definitive science of society aimed at bringing about the ultimate political revolution that would eliminate the class divisions wrought by industrialization.

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    Profoundly influenced by the great elaborator of the French revolution, Georg W. In a famous essay entitled "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific" , Friedrich Engels argued that if with Hegel the world began to be viewed as a developmental process, with the onset of industrialization and the rise of the working class in the s socialism had ceased to be "an accidental discovery of this or that ingenious brain" and had become instead "the necessary outcome" of a larger historical struggle governed by scientific laws.

    Accordingly, the task for critical analysis was no longer to imagine a society as perfect as possible but to lay bare the present pattern of socioeconomic relations in which the next "stage" of historical development was already nascent. Marx, according to Engels, had done just that for the "capitalist mode of production" and thus with Marx "socialism had become scientific. Far from having been "science" the argument goes, Marxism was nothing more than a bogus religion claiming falsely to be science.

    This claim inspired millions of people, both inside and outside the Soviet Union, and informed the thinking of much of what went on under Stalin and after , from the establishment of economic planning and school curricula to the capacity for opposition to the regime. If the scientificity of Marxian socialism needs to be taken seriously, however, so does its utopian aspect.

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    Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Magnetic Mountain by Stephen Kotkin. This study is the first of its kind: a street-level inside account of what Stalinism meant to the masses of ordinary people who lived it.

    How Stalin Became Stalinist

    Stephen Kotkin was the first American in 45 years to be allowed into Magnitogorsk, a city built in response to Stalin's decision to transform the predominantly agricultural nation into a "country of metal. Kotkin argues that Stalinism offered itself as an opportunity for enlightenment. The utopia it proffered, socialism, would be a new civilization based on the repudiation of capitalism.

    The extent to which the citizenry participated in this scheme and the relationship of the state's ambitions to the dreams of ordinary people form the substance of this fascinating story. Kotkin tells it deftly, with a remarkable understanding of the social and political system, as well as a keen instinct for the details of everyday life.

    Kotkin depicts a whole range of life: from the blast furnace workers who labored in the enormous iron and steel plant, to the families who struggled with the shortage of housing and services. Thematically organized and closely focused, Magnetic Mountain signals the beginning of a new stage in the writing of Soviet social history. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published February 27th by University of California Press first published More Details Original Title.

    Other Editions 5. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Magnetic Mountain , please sign up. Lists with This Book.