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Political Science
Jeffrey Kopstein

Communist and Post-CommuniStudieVol.29,No1, pp. l-24, 1996 Elsevier Science Ltd. Copyright 0 1996The Regents of the University of California Pergamon Printed in Great Britain. All rights reserved 0967-067X196$15.00+ 0.00 0967-067X(95)00027-5 What Was Communism: A Retrospective in Comparative Analysis Andrew C. Janos* Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA The purpose of this article is to take advantageof historical hindsight in bring- ing into sharper focus similarities and differences among communist regimes in the USSR and Eastern Europe. The framework for this exercise recognizes several dimensions in three interrelated categories: the political formula, the political culture, and the structure, scope, and exercise of public authority. The questions that these categories suggest allow us to compare the Leninist, Staliist, and post-Stalin regimes in the Soviet Union with the diverse commu- nist regimes that evolved in East Europe in the more recent period. The contrasts established are not merely of historical relevance. They will also permit the student of contemporary Russia and China to engage in meaning- ful discourse about these countries prospects. Elsevier Science Ltd. Copyright 0 1996The Regents of the University of California. For much of the past 50 years, scholarly debates in the field of communist studies too often revolved around definitional problems, the resolution of which were thought to provide the discipline with an appropriate paradigm for explaining the mutations and dynamics of communist political systems. Alas, during all these decades the discipline failed to establish broad consensus as to the essence of communism, either as a political movement, or as a regime type associated with the Soviet Union and its East European client states. In a seminal review article, written in 1958, Daniel Bell found ten competing definitions and corresponding theories of Soviet communism (Bell, 1958). Partly inspired by Bells survey, the next decade saw the rise of a new subdiscipline of comparative communism, practiced mainly by political economists and sociologists. This development resulted in a great number of empirical studies and typologies, but not in any substantial change in the degree of professional consensus about the quintessen- tial features, and hence the laws of motion, of communist political movements and regimes. Indeed, as we survey the contributions of social scientists to the field of comparative communism, we find at least five competing paradigms of communist *The author wishes to acknowledge the financiasupport of the Center for Slavic Studies and the Center for German and European Studies of the University of California, Berkeley. Further acknowl- edgments are due to Susan Siena and Jeffrey Sluyter-Beltrafor their competent research assistance. 2 Communism: A Retrospective in ComparativeAnalysis: A. C. Janos behavior. These are (1) the paradigm of totalitarianism that saw communism as a drive for total domination in response to social marginality and psychological strain (Arendt, 1951); (2) the paradigm of charismatic salvationism that presented communism as a movement in pursuit of utopian objectives forced to adapt over time to hard economic and political realities (Cohn, 1957; Moore, 1958, 1965; Brzezinski, 1967; Tucker 1970); (3) the paradigm of modernization that saw communism as a radical strategy of industrialization and economic development (Kautsky, 1970);* (4) a paradigm of political development in which the party appears as the agent for creating a viable political community in a competitive system of states (Black, 1966; Jowitt, 1971, 1978); and finally, (5) the bureaucratic paradigm that sought to define communism as an alternative model of economic allocation and social redistribution, competing with systems of allocation based on the market and traditional cultural norms (Rigby, 1964; Hough, 1969; Konrad and Szelenyi, 1979). Without trying to reject the validity of the above five paradigms, this essay will take up the case of a sixth paradigm that emerged slowly and remained largely outside the social science mainstream until the twilight years of communism (Lasswell, 1954; Colton, 1984; Fish, 1990). We may refer to it as the paradigm of the externally oriented state based on the principle of the primacy of foreign policy (Primat der aww&tigen Politik)2 that a generation of German scholars juxtaposed to the developmental state and the primacy of internal economics (Fichte, 1818/1964; Apter, 1963). This paradigm may be labeled as reconstruc- tionist, in deference to Karl Mannheim who in 1935 described the age of modem ideology as one of designs for reconstructing the world (Mannheim, 1940). We may also refer to it as the paradigm of a militarized society, following Herbert Spencers classical juxtaposition between the organizational principles of militancy and industrialism (Spencer, 1972). In pursuing this theme, the article will follow certain epistemological assump- tions that are familiar to the practitioners of political sociology. These assump- tions go back to such classical writers as Vilfredo Pareto and Max Weber who in turn speak of the fundamental purpose3 and ultimate ends (Weber, 1947, pp. 91, 185, 324-325) of political regimes as the appropriate points of departure for their systematic analysis. What these writers tell us, implicitly or explicitly, is that these purposes and principles can provide legitimacy and cohesion to the politi- cal order, but in order to be credible, they must be operationalized by the appro- priate choice of means. These ends and means together represent, in Gaetano Moscas term, the political formula (Mosca, 1939, pp. 70-72, 106107, 134) of a regime, and this formula will shape the structure and scope of public authority and, at the same time, provide a logic for a political culture of norms and symbolic expressions that facilitate interaction among political actors as well as between the individual and the state. Altogether the political formula-a combination of ultimate ends and operational principles-tells us a great deal about political reality, and as such permits us to follow the golden rule of parsimony. To the extent that this is true, the resulting typologies will provide us with an appropri- ate historical perspective. They may also allow us to take the first tentative steps 1. For a critical survey, see Jones (1976). 2. For an extensive survey of this literature, see CxempiFor more recent formulations of the concept, see Rosecrance(1986) and Gourevitch(1978). One should also note that the notion of militancy is implicit in much of the neo-Marxist literature condemning the viability of development on the peripherie(Frank, 1969, Wallerstein, 1974). 3. On Pareto see Parsons (1965, esp. p. 79). Communism: A Retrospective in Comparative Analysis: A. C. Janos 3 toward formulating generalizations about the potentially analogous cases that we encounter in the modern world. Background to Revolution Few historians would disagree with the proposition that the central fact in the history of modem Russia was the countrys relative backwardness and its progres- sive economic marginalization by the successful industrial revolutions of the West. The recurrent crises that plagued the country from the middle of the 19th century onward can certainly be easily explained by this fact. With its inadequate economic base, the Russian state found it increasingly difficult to interact effectively with more advanced states in international affairs. More specifically, the relative costs of the effective functioning of the state required the extraction of ever larger revenues from a relatively stationary economic base.4 And if such extractions created a growing sense of absolute deprivation among the peasantry, the rising industrial working class, while its wages were advancing compared to the peasantry, suffered a deep sense of relative deprivation by measuring its condi- tion, via a radical intelligentsia, against the much higher living standards of the West.5 Not surprisingly, therefore, much of the political discourse in the country around the turn of the past century revolved around the issue of economic backwardness and its possible remedies. The Tsarist governments had experi- mented with a variety of developmental measures ever since the 186Os,without actually transforming Russia into a modem developmental state by abandoning the traditional principle of divine right. In contrast, their populist opponents, whose movement had grown out of the Slavophile movement, took an anti-devel- opmental stance, hoping to save Russia from the agonies of modem industrial- ism (Yarmolinski, 1962,pp. 168-185; Ulam, 1965,pp. 29-46; Venturi, 1966). The socialists in turn first favored an autocratic state in the hope that by modernizing society from above it would create conditions for the rise of a democratic and socialist state. However, after fiercely fighting the populists on this issue, in 1903 the socialists experienced their historical split, and while the Mensheviks bet on a bourgeois democra
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