Russian Modernization: Successive Failed Modernities?

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:25
Location: Hörsaal 21 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Mikhail MASLOVSKIY, Sociological Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia
The idea of different versions of modernity which succeded one another has been elaborated by Peter Wagner. However, Wagner's analysis deals with European societies and new societies founded by European settlers. These cases include modifications of European cultural and institutional patterns rather than alternative projects of modernity. It is questionable if this approach could be applied to those societies whose trajectories of development were radically different from the 'Atlantic world'. Unlike Wagner, Johann Arnason focuses on two non-western modernizing patterns represented by the failed Soviet model and the Japanese civilization. Arnason discusses the imperial modernization in pre-revolutionary Russia and offers a comparative analysis of imperial revolutions and 'entangled communisms' in Russia and China. He devotes considerable attention to the formation, dynamics and crises of communist modernity in the USSR and other countries. Arnason also elaborates the concept of alternating modernities which he applies in particular to the history of Czechoslovakia. From his viewpoint, the Soviet model could be seen not as a deviation from the only road to modernity but as a specific form of modern society although it proved to be unsustainable in the long run. Arnason considers a peculiar combination of limited success and long-term failure of Soviet modernity on the economic, political and cultural levels. His general conclusion is that the crisis of the late 1980s had a much longer prehistory and a global dimension. At the same time the question remains whether the concept of failed modernity can also be applied to post-communist Russia that is re-asserting its distinctiveness from western liberal modernity. Apparently it is too early to make any definite conclusion on this issue. But it can be argued that the formation of any kind of alternative form of modernity is hardly possible in contemporary Russian society.