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Article

The Soviet version of modernity: Weberian and post-Weberian perspectives

Russian Sociological Review. 2019. Vol. 18. No. 2. P. 174-188.

The article discusses several approaches to the study of Soviet society drawing on Max Weber’s theoretical models or following a broadly-understood Weberian tradition in historical sociology. Weberian perspectives have been used for the analysis of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and its aftermath. The early Bolshevik Party has been characterized as a community of “ideological virtuosi” while its further development has been described either as “incomplete rationalization” or as a re-traditionalization. In the article, it is argued that employing the post-Weberian multiple modernities approach allows us to overcome some of the difficulties that have emerged in this case. In particular, the article focuses on Johann Arnason’s analysis of the Soviet model of modernity. For Arnason, the Soviet model incorporated both the legacy of imperial transformation from above and the revolutionary vision of a new society. He claims that communism represented a distinctive version of modernity rather than a deviation from the modernizing mainstream. In recent historical studies of the Soviet period, two approaches have been formed stressing the modernity of the Soviet regime or its neo-traditionalist aspects. The distinction between these approaches has been discussed by Michael David-Fox. The article considers the parallels between the new historical studies of Soviet society, on the one hand, and both Weberian and post-Weberian sociological perspectives, on the other.