Title The ontology of socialism
Author Jadwiga Staniszkis
Publisher Oxford: Clarendon Press
Annotation The volume deals with the mechanisms characteristic of socialism (seen as state doctrine) that generate its specific types of social aggregation and its patterns of representation and legitimization. Following this path, the author aims to explain the lack of opposition under communism and the adherence to inclusionary policies pursed by these regimes – ultimately, the lack of loci of resistance within the communist-ruled societies. On the one hand, there are the factors of coercion and paternalism (“the prerogative state”). These two organize the dynamics of resource extraction and distribution. And they generate “the neo-estate system of self-co-opting power” (pp. 15-18) with its monopolistic approach to identitarian discourse. Thus, the members of the society find it difficult to develop self-conceptualizations in accordance to their role and activity in it. On the other hand, the hegemony over identity (collective and individual) is dependent on the regime’s legitimization arguments, for the latter determine its philosophy of rule (pp.84). Consequently, the hierarchies of state socialism are dependent on the “evaluative symbolic vision” that legitimizes its policies and existence. The principal mechanism of constructing such vision is what Staniszkis calls “bricolage-type of thinking”. The latter relies on discontinuity, because it is based on re-signification of isolated cultural signs. In this manner, new symbolic associations are created, which are recognized within the society because of their references, but no longer depend on their original composite meaning. Because of these phenomena, the individual is caught in between the vision of the society and everyday life under state socialism. S/he has a sense of normalcy but is lacking a clear definition of social interest because of the contrast between self- and state-symbolization. Consequently, in Staniszkis’ opinion, a space for acquiescence, collaboration and legitimization is formed leading to the reproduction of the socialist system. This approach can be important if one attempts to understand the role of the nation, as a master symbol, in the justification of the developmental tasks set by communist regimes.
Author of Annotation Bogdan Cristian Iacob
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