"For well over a decade now a major debate in Soviet historiography has centered on Bolshevik Russia's suspected participation in a happening called "modernity," a happening that is as exciting to attend as it is difficult to locate. . . . Hoffmann's Cultivating the Masses is the latest book-length contribution to this debate; it testifies to the tenacity of the problematic, while raising doubts as to its continuing fecundity. The research behind Hoffmann’s historical narrative is impeccable throughout. . .and his handling of non-Russian contexts is truly impressive in its breadth."—Petre Petrow, Slavic and East European Journal
"David L. Hoffmann offers a powerful counterweight to . . . simple (and self-exonerating) explanations in the first major comparative assessment of Soviet socialism in its turbulent foundational decades. . . . Hoffmann has presented an ambitious survey of Soviet state practices that deserves an audience in all fields of modern world history. Even if some might dispute his largely structuralist interpretation of the system's most infamous abuses, they will be hard pressed to ignore the abundance of evidence he presents of influences common to the transition to modernity. His prose is lucid, and the comparative approach and chronological scope of this monograph make it an attractive choice for the classroom. . . ."—T. Clayton Black, The NEP Era: Soviet Russia 1921-1928
"Cultivating the Masses is a major contribution to an ongoing effort to place the interwar history of the Soviet Union in comparative, transnational, and transcultural perspective according to the central assumptions of this paradigm. . . . This book is a meritorious contribution to that ongoing conversation."—Glennys Young, Russian Review
"Cultivating the Masses is one of the most important comparative works to be published in the field of Soviet history. David L. Hoffmann adds his own archival research to a broad interpretive synthesis of social interventionism, concentrating on European countries but ranging across the non-Western world. The book's major themes—the role of factors in addition to ideology in shaping Soviet interventionism and modernity, the centrality of intelligentsia experts, the impact of Russia's 'nurturist' disciplinary culture, and the reinforcing relationship between other forms of social interventionism and Soviet political violence—will have a lasting impact on how we view early Soviet history."—Michael David-Fox, Georgetown University, author of Revolution of the Mind: Higher Learning among the Bolsheviks, 1918–1929
"In keeping with other challenging work in Soviet history, David L. Hoffmann asks us to rethink the purposes and meanings of socialist construction during the Stalin years by placing that history comparatively in its time—whether defined by the violence and mass mobilizations of the Imperial and early Bolshevik periods or by the wider European contexts of governmentality, population, and welfare. We may not go all the way, but anyone interested in how the boundaries of the social were attacked and reimagined during those times can do far worse than begin from this book."—Geoff Eley, Karl Pohrt Distinguished University Professor of Contemporary History, University of Michigan, author of A Crooked Line: From Cultural History to the History of Society
"David L. Hoffmann has written a masterful synthesis of much recent literature and added his own archival research to firmly situate late imperial Russia and the Soviet Union in the comparative international scholarship of the modern state. By examining state intervention in the realms of social welfare, public health, reproductive policies, and surveillance, he makes a persuasive case for tracing the origins of Soviet socialism in European ideas and practices of cameralism, the Enlightenment, romanticism, and the rise of the social sciences in the nineteenth century. He traces the evolution of the Soviet project from its imperial roots in the professions that deployed social statistics, criminology, demography, and other forms of knowledge and power to the birth of the Bolshevik state in conditions of total war. Socialist ideology as such, he argues, played a less important role against this backdrop of modern state practices."—Mark von Hagen, Arizona State University, author of Soldiers in the Proletarian Dictatorship
About the Author
David L. Hoffmann is Professor of History at The Ohio State University. His books include, as editor, Russian Modernity: Politics, Knowledge, Practices and Stalinism: The Essential Readings.