Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia Kindle Edition
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About the Author
--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- File Size : 1865 KB
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Publisher : Free Press (June 30, 2008)
- Publication Date : June 30, 2008
- Print Length : 594 pages
- Language: : English
- ASIN : B0036QVOJG
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #649,436 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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The basic premise of Soviet Tragedy is that ideology, rather than either great men or material conditions, was the prime mover of Soviet history. Malia thus begins his history of the Soviet Union in a unique way: he gives a brief history of Western philosophy. Malia sees the entire history of modern moral philosophy as a response to the Age of Reason. This period saw the overthrow of Aristotelian science, which consequently led to great cultural shift of seeing the world as a scientist, rather than a believer. Thus, German thinkers such as Kant and Hegel attempted to establish, from pure reason, the conclusions that were endorsed by Christian teaching. The end result of this German intellectual tradition was the ersatz religion of Marxism.
Malia next spends some time recounting familiar information about Russia's unique history (the Russiann Sonderweg, if you will) and how the birth of the Soviet state was the combination of this history, modern Western philosophy, and the cataclysmic events of the First World War. He then turns his attention to Soviet history proper, from 1918 to 1991. He argues forcefully that this period witnesses a contest between two separate Communist ideologies: hard and soft Communism. The former would dominate the U.S.S.R until it "pushed the human and material fabric of the country to the breaking point", as it did during the War Communism period. Soft communism, exemplified best by Lenin's New Economic Policy, would then takeover, and would remain the dominant ideology until it looked as if the Party would lose control of the country. Thus the NEP was replaced with Stalin's first Five Year Plan. This back and forth between hard and soft communism would continue until Gorbachev's experiment with the latter, which would irrevocably end the Party's dominance.
Written as it was after the demise of the Soviet Union, Malia's work is important not so much for its conclusions about the Soviet Union as it for its conclusions about the nature of historical studies. Malia echoes John Lewis Gaddis' assertion that the failure to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union should be seen as an embarrassment for social scientists, and furthermore claims that the years after 1991 presented a missed opportunity at reflecting upon the discipline of history. Malia singles out Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber-the three founders of the social sciences-for criticism. He suggests that our guide to the Soviet period should have Alexis de Tocqueville all along, as it was Tocqueville who not only famous predicted the fates of both the United States and Russia, but who also famously declared that the most dangerous period for any authoritarian regime was the moment it started to reform itself.
Malia's work thus argues that the collapse of the Soviet Union proves that, besides reflecting upon the failings of individual Sovietologists and Kremlinologists, we ought to take a long and critical look at the evolution of history as a disclipine. In this respect Malia is highly relevant for today. In an world where thinkers such as Nassim Taleb frequently cast doubt upon the value of history, Soviet Tragedy can and should be seen as a defense of history's potential value, and as a guide to unlocking that potential.