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Post-Soviet Social

Post-Soviet Social: Neoliberalism, Social Modernity, Biopolitics

Stephen J. Collier
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Post-Soviet Social
    Book Description:

    The Soviet Union created a unique form of urban modernity, developing institutions of social provisioning for hundreds of millions of people in small and medium-sized industrial cities spread across a vast territory. After the collapse of socialism these institutions were profoundly shaken--casualties, in the eyes of many observers, of market-oriented reforms associated with neoliberalism and the Washington Consensus. InPost-Soviet Social, Stephen Collier examines reform in Russiabeyondthe Washington Consensus. He turns attention from the noisy battles over stabilization and privatization during the 1990s to subsequent reforms that grapple with the mundane details of pipes, wires, bureaucratic routines, and budgetary formulas that made up the Soviet social state.

    Drawing on Michel Foucault's lectures from the late 1970s,Post-Soviet Socialuses the Russian case to examine neoliberalism as a central form of political rationality in contemporary societies. The book's basic finding--that neoliberal reforms provide a justification for redistribution and social welfare, and may work to preserve the norms and forms of social modernity--lays the groundwork for a critical revision of conventional understandings of these topics.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4042-7
    Subjects: Anthropology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface: Formal and Substantive
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. CHAPTER ONE Introduction: Post-Soviet, Post-Social?
    (pp. 1-30)

    What is the relationship between neoliberalism and social modernity? How have neoliberal reforms critiqued and reworked projects of state planning and social welfare found in so many countries in the twentieth century? A generation of scholars has answered these questions in virtually one voice. Neoliberal doctrine, they argue, is opposed to social welfare and to the public ends of government; it is “congenitally blind,” as Peter Evans has written, “to the need for social protection” (2008: 277). Neoliberal reforms, meanwhile, deconstitute institutions of social protection and economic regulation, either through a general retrenchment of government in favor of the market,...

  7. Part I: Soviet Social Modernity

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 31-38)

      In 1930 the State Publishing House issued Nikolai Aleksandrovich Miliutin’s book,The Problem of Building Socialist Cities, Basic Questions Regarding the Rational Planning and Construction of Settlements in the USSR. The book—frequently referred to asSotsgorod, orSocialist City—is among the celebrated documents of the Soviet architectural and urbanist avant-garde. Its best-known proposal was for a “lineal city,” a planning concept that, as George Collins and Arthur Sprague (1974) have argued, can be located in a tradition that extends from Toni Garnier’sCite Industrielleto the precepts put forth by CIAM in the Athens Charter. As in these...

    • CHAPTER TWO The Birth of Soviet Biopolitics
      (pp. 39-64)

      The pattern of Soviet biopolitics took shape during the 1920s, a decade that was as momentous for the history of modern government as were the years of early liberalism in Britain or France. By 1925, with growth based on the recovery of the pre–World War I economy nearing completion, the Soviet leadership resolved to pursue an intensified program of planned industrial development. The debates over how industrialization should be organized, in particular the disputes between the “genetic” and “teleological” approaches to planning, explored fundamental questions concerning the political ontology of Soviet government.Geneticplanners developed techniques for constraining government...

    • CHAPTER THREE City-building
      (pp. 65-83)

      The industrialization debates, and their conclusion with the rise of a centrally administered economy, established the framework for a distinctive Soviet biopolitics based on teleological planning. Its logical implication was that the entirety of collective life must be part of a plan: not just industrial production, but the people who work in industrial enterprises along with the apparatus required to meet their daily needs. This chapter examines how Soviet planners worked out these latter questions, which relate to the Soviet effort to constitute the health, welfare, and conditions of existence of populations as objects of knowledge and targets of intervention....

    • CHAPTER FOUR City-building in Belaya Kalitva
      (pp. 84-107)

      The conceptual developments in Soviet city-building in the early 1930s were matched by some initial steps in creating a technocratic apparatus to handle the massive amount of planning and technical work implied by rapid urbanization and industrialization. In the early 1930s, city planning and architectural activities were increasingly carried out not by independent organizations of architects and urbanists but in a growing range of “official” planning institutes. These included the “city-building institutes”—first among these Giprogor, the State Institute for the Design of Cities (Gosudarstvennyi Institut Proektirovaniia Gorodov), in Moscow—as well as a number of more specialized organizations dealing...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Consolidation, Stagnation, Breakup
      (pp. 108-126)

      The picture of city-building presented in the prior chapter substantially contradicts the story about urban planning that emerged in Soviet and foreign literature over the last decades of the Soviet period. If through the 1960s Soviet urban planning and local administration were seen to exemplify effective new forms of bureaucratic impersonalism, then by the 1970s this image was being challenged.¹ It was observed that productivist norms created incentives to build in a shoddy way, or to do the minimum required for work to count toward annual production targets. Attention was also drawn to the distortions introduced by bureaucratic politics that...

  8. Part II: Neoliberalism and Social Modernity

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 127-138)

      In the fall of 1990, a group of Soviet and American specialists began to meet to discuss the future of the Soviet Union and the future of Soviet-American relations. The Soviets in the group were reformers who occupied, at that time, a tenuous political position. After initially backing a plan for rapid economic transformation, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had been pressured by reactionaries into a partial retreat, leaving the reformers’ influence uncertain (Service 1998: 493). The Americans were academics and high-level technocrats with backgrounds in international security and international economics. Among their prominent spokespeople were Graham Allison, an expert on...

    • CHAPTER SIX Adjustment Problems
      (pp. 139-161)

      In the early 1990s, structural adjustment emerged as a key frame through which foreign and domestic reformers thought about, and acted on, post-Soviet transformation in Russia. The searing battles over this policy paradigm and this vision of transformation were burned into the consciousness of critical observers. Structural adjustment came to define the stakes of post-Soviet reform: planning versus markets, substantive provisioning versus formal efficiency, public versus private value. And the great experiment with structural adjustment in Russia stood, for many critical observers, as a paradigm case of neoliberal reform.¹

      My argument in this chapter begins from the observation that, although...

      (pp. 162-201)

      Before beginning my fieldwork in Russia, I traveled with a colleague to Rostovoblast’, a relatively rich and populous region in southern Russia. On the way to the small cities in which we planned to conduct research, we passed through the region’s capital, Rostov. The stop was obligatory. Letters had to be signed and permissions granted for fieldwork to begin. Among the officials whose permission we required was the head of the regional government’s Ministry of Finance.² The head of the Ministry was a woman—a circumstance that may seem initially surprising, given the near-total dominance of men in positions...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT The Intransigence of Things
      (pp. 202-244)

      Anyone who has spent time in Russian cities has been struck by the obtrusive presence of pipes. Some are yellow gas pipes, usually visible only for a short distance among apartment blocks or suspended along the borders of yards between small, single-family homes. Most of the visible pipes, however, are heating pipes. In some areas these pipes are buried or otherwise out of view, running discretely along fences or buildings. Elsewhere, they emerge suddenly from the ground, in the midst of a park or walkway, often two in parallel, up to a few feet in diameter, leaping over driveways and...

    • EPILOGUE An Ineffective Controversy
      (pp. 245-252)

      In an important essay on the theme of governmental reason, Colin Gordon provocatively argued that Michel Foucault’s 1979 lectures identified neoliberalism as “a considerably more original and challenging phenomenon than the left’s critical culture has had the courage to acknowledge” (1991: 6). Gordon’s comment referred, in part, to Foucault’s prescient recognition that neoliberalism was profoundly reshaping how government was constituted as a conceptual and practical problem in the last decades of the twentieth century. But he also pointed to Foucault’s deepening dissatisfaction with certain tendencies in the discourse about liberalism and neoliberalism.³ Foucault suggested that critics tended toovervalue neoliberalism...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 253-278)
  10. References
    (pp. 279-298)
  11. Index
    (pp. 299-304)