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Toward Another Shore

Toward Another Shore: Russian Thinkers Between Necessity and Chance

Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 416
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  • Book Info
    Toward Another Shore
    Book Description:

    In this thought-provoking book, an internationally acclaimed scholar writes about the passion for ideology among nineteenth- and twentieth-century Russian intellectuals and about the development of sophisticated critiques of ideology by a continuing minority of Russian thinkers inspired by libertarian humanism. Aileen Kelly sets the conflict between utopian and anti-utopian traditions in Russian thought within the context of the shift in European thought away from faith in universal systems and "grand narratives" of progress toward an acceptance of the role of chance and contingency in nature and history.In the current age, as we face the dilemma of how to prevent the erosion of faith in absolutes and final solutions from ending in moral nihilism, we have much to learn from the struggles, failures, and insights of Russian thinkers, Kelly says. Her essays-some of them tours de force that have appeared before as well as substantial new studies of Turgenev, Herzen, and theSignpostsdebate-illuminate the insights of Russian intellectuals into the social and political consequences of ideas of such seminal Western thinkers as Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Darwin.Russian Literature and Thought Series

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14415-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    “Here, we may say, we are at home, and like the mariner after a long voyage in a tempestuous sea, we may now hail the sight of land”: thus Hegel described the commencement (with Descartes) of the modern age in philosophy, when human thought began to seek to derive all its knowledge and values autonomously through reason. Quoting these lines in 1843, Aleksandr Herzen, then the leading radical Hegelian in Russia, offered a variation on Hegel’s metaphor. Hegel believed that his philosophy was “the shore to which thought is sailing as to its peaceful harbour.... We, on the contrary, see...

  5. 1: Methods and Approaches

    • CHAPTER ONE A Complex Vision
      (pp. 15-24)

      In an attempt to explain Russian Bolshevism to Lady Ottoline Morrell, Bertrand Russell once remarked that, appalling though it was, it seemed the right sort of government for Russia: “If you ask yourself how Dostoevsky’s characters should be governed, you will understand.”¹

      In the eyes of many Western liberals, the Soviet tyranny was the inescapable outcome of the ideas and actions of Dostoevsk’s “possessed”: the Russian radical intelligentsia. In the degree of their alienation from their society and of their impact on it, the Russian intelligentsia of the nineteenth century were a phenomenon almost sui generis. Their ideological leaders were...

    • CHAPTER TWO Leonard Schapiro’s Russia
      (pp. 25-34)

      In the introduction to his bookThe Soviet Political Mind, Robert Tucker remarks that the history of twentieth-century politics can be seen as a process of realizing the dreams of the nineteenth. Few scholars of Soviet history were so passionately committed to demonstrating the truth of this view as Leonard Schapiro, and few were more qualified to do so. After the Second World War the study of Russian history and Soviet politics separated into two distinct specializations whose practitioners spoke no common language. Schapiro never respected this artificial boundary. For many years the doyen of Russian studies at the London...

  6. 2: Insights and Ambivalences

    • CHAPTER THREE Carnival of the Intellectuals: 1855
      (pp. 37-54)

      One of the “men of the 1860s,” Nikolai Shelgunov describes that decade on which Russia embarked with the end of the Crimean War as

      a period of unusual spiritual intensity, of remarkable concentration of mental effort and remarkable sharpening of our critical faculties.... There was not a single field of knowledge that the critical faculty did not penetrate, not a single social phenomenon untouched by it. Earth and heaven, paradise and hell, problems of personal and public happiness, the peasant’s hut and the nobleman’s mansion—all these were scrutinized and subjected to critical appraisal.... The intellectual revolution we experienced in...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Dostoevsky and the Divided Conscience
      (pp. 55-79)

      In the decade between the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, many of the Russian radical intelligentsia believed that Dostoevsky had anticipated their moral dilemmas.¹ Writers sympathetic to the Left like Dmitry Merezhkovsky argued that the experience of that turbulent period confirmed Dostoevsky’s discovery about the nature of moral choice: namely, there existed no single system of beliefs, no coherent ethical code, that could resolve all problems of ends and means and that this was so because, on some of the most fundamental issues of moral choice, the promptings of reason and feeling could not be reconciled. To be internally...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Tolstoy in Doubt
      (pp. 80-90)

      “You think that I am one thing and my writing is another. But my writing is the whole of me.” Thus Tolstoy wrote in 1885, in one of the long and bitter letters to his wife in which he sought to explain the appalling suffering that they had caused each other since his spiritual crisis of the 1870s. Their misery was all due, he believed, to one fatal mistake: she had succumbed to “the general opinion that a literary artist ... should write works of art, and not think about his life or improve it, and that all that is...

    • CHAPTER SIX The Nihilism of Ivan Turgenev
      (pp. 91-118)

      The “elegiac poet of the last enchantments of decaying country houses and of their ineffective but irresistibly attractive inhabitants”—this (as Isaiah Berlin has suggested) is the conventional picture of Ivan Turgenev. ¹ The reality was a man intellectually and artistically ahead of his time, one of that avant-garde who, in the first half of the last century, already sensed in the iconoclasm of Feuerbach and the pessimism of Schopenhauer the beginnings of a rethinking of the nature of the self that would shake European thought to its ontological foundations. Nietzsche would announce that he was the first “to know...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Liberal Dilemmas and Populist Solutions
      (pp. 119-133)

      To the Russian Marxists, the populist movement that dominated the Russian radical tradition for nearly half a century before them was all heart and no head, the creation of high-minded but ineffectual idealists, which formed a sentimental prologue to the real business of revolution. But many Western liberal historians have seen far greater significance in it, arguing that the roots of Soviet despotism are traceable ultimately to revolutionary populism, from which the Bolsheviks took the method of enforcing a socialist ideology through the violent action of a professional revolutionary elite.

      As Edward Acton has observed, the traditional liberal interpretation of...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT The Intelligentsia and Self-Censorship
      (pp. 134-154)

      In a letter to his friends in Russia in 1850, Aleksandr Herzen complained of the “democratic orthodoxy” that prevailed among the exiled revolutionaries of 1848:

      They have set up their own radical inquisition, their poll tax on ideas: ideas and thoughts that meet their requirements are granted rights of citizenship.... Those that do not are ... the proletariat of the moral world: they have to be silent or win their place by a head-on attack. Subversive ideas have become subject to a democratic censorship that is incomparably more fearsome than any other variety, because it is not backed by police,...

    • CHAPTER NINE Which Signposts?
      (pp. 155-200)

      Its appearance in Russian bookshops in March 1909 caused a sensation: it quickly ran into five editions. The intelligentsia to whom it was addressed repudiated it en masse; it was denounced in public meetings across the country, a bitter campaign was waged against it in the progressive press, and few who called themselves enlightened dared to write or speak in its defense. Yet less than a decade later many such people hailed it as a prophetic work. Its memory was kept alive by dissident Soviet intellectuals, and it was among the first of once-forbidden books to be republished under glasnost....

    • CHAPTER TEN The Chaotic City
      (pp. 201-218)

      On October 1, 1991, the city of Leningrad officially regained its original name—Sankt-Peterburg. This marked the end of a tense debate that began in the early years of glasnost. Supporters of the change were accused of monarchism and a lack of patriotism (it was pointed out that the name St. Petersburg had been on the maps of Hitler’s commanders, who intended to rename the city immediately after they had taken it). Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn had recommended a Russified rendering: Sviato-Petrograd.

      As Solomon Volkov observes inSt. Petersburg, the passions aroused by this debate reveal the symbolic importance Russians attach to...

  7. 3: Delusions and Evasions

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN The Rational Reality of Boris Chicherin
      (pp. 221-244)

      Few Russian thinkers have profited so much from historical hindsight as Boris Chicherin. Politically isolated and widely detested, he was described by Pyotr Struve as a “superfluous” figure in the Russia of his time;¹ the leader of the right wing of the Kadet Party, V. A. Maklakov (one of Chicherin’s few contemporaries who sympathized with his ideas), subsequently expressed regret that Chicherin had had absolutely no influence on the Russian liberal movement.² But historians have presented him very differently: he is commonly described both as a leading theorist of Russian liberalism and one of the most outstanding thinkers of his...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE Bakunin and the Charm of the Millennium
      (pp. 245-256)

      “One of the completest embodiments in history of the spirit of liberty,” to quote E. H. Carr, Mikhail Bakunin has come to symbolize the rebellion of the human spirit against all the constraints imposed on it by authorities, systems, and institutions.¹ But there is another image of Bakunin, equally well documented: a scheming megalomaniac with aspirations to dictatorship. The first image was sedulously promoted by his followers, the second by his enemies. Historians have been almost as divided on the question of the true Bakunin, their differences depending often on whether they have chosen to focus primarily on his personality...

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN A Bolshevik Philosophy?
      (pp. 257-284)

      Russian Marxism produced two revisionist movements at the turn of the century: the neo-Kantian and the empiriocriticist. The first of these had an important influence on Russian philosophy, literature, and religious thought and on the theory of Russian liberalism. Consequently, it has received much more attention from historians than the much more narrowly circumscribed attempt by a group of Bolsheviks to synthesize Marxism with the philosophy of empiriocriticism. Intellectually and politically, their influence was slight and short-lived; their major claim to interest is commonly seen as the role they played in causing Lenin to write his only philosophical work. The...

    • CHAPTER FOURTEEN Brave New Worlds
      (pp. 285-304)

      In the introduction to their bookUtopia in Power, the exiled Russian historians Aleksandr Nekrich and Mikhail Heller wrote that in the great wars of history, defeat for the losers has always meant more than extermination or slavery. It means that “the conquerors write the history of their wars; the victors take possession of the past, establish their control over the collective memory.”¹ In the Soviet Utopia, they argued, manipulation of the past in the service of power was carried to a level previously unknown in human history. Following the formulas of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin, history was rewritten in...

  8. 4: Another Shore

    • CHAPTER FIFTEEN Irony and Utopia in Herzen and Dostoevsky
      (pp. 307-325)

      InA Writer’s Diary, Dostoevsky records that on visiting Aleksandr Herzen in London in 1862, he praisedFrom the Other Shore, Herzen’s philosophical meditation on the revolutionary defeat of 1848-49, presented mainly as a series of dialogues with an imaginary opponent. What he liked most about the book, Dostoevsky told Herzen, was that “your opponent is also very clever” and that “many a time he has driven you into a corner.”¹

      There has been much commentary on the echoes of Herzen’s writings in Dostoevsky’s work,² but only one critic has focused on the resemblance between the dialogical structures ofA...

    • CHAPTER SIXTEEN Herzen versus Schopenhauer
      (pp. 326-344)

      A philosophy of “despair, hopelessness and disbelief”—this view of Aleksandr Herzen’s thought in V. V. Zenkovsky’s authoritative history of Russian philosophy has been echoed by other commentators, who have classed Herzen with Nietzsche as a precursor of modern pessimism.¹ This is not a labeling he would have welcomed. It is commonly maintained that to deny the existence of an a priori rational or providential order in the world is to be, by definition, a pessimist.² Herzen vigorously rejected the possibility of such an order but denied equally strongly that this rejection was equivalent to pessimism. He pressed his point...

    • CHAPTER SEVENTEEN The Divine Inventor, Chance
      (pp. 345-352)

      In 1852 the French historian Jules Michelet published a tirade against the Russian government and people. The vast majority of the population of that country, he pointed out, were barbarous serfs, and the gentry who owned them were themselves the cringing servants of a tyranny that threatened the freedom of the whole of Europe. The Russians, he suggested, were devoid of moral sense.¹ This attack drew an angry response from an obscure Russian political refugee who argued that the Russian people might indeed be politically enslaved but that, unlike their European critics, they were not morally shackled by the formidable...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 353-398)
  10. Permissions
    (pp. 399-400)