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Title:Political culture in flux: Formlessness and recreation in the trauma of the Russian transition
Author(s):Alexander, James Thornshack
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Kanet, Roger E.
Department / Program:Political Science
Discipline:Political Science
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Anthropology, Cultural
History, European
Political Science, General
Abstract:Using Russia as a case study, this dissertation enters the debate over political culture malleability. Based on fieldwork carried out in the Russian provincial cities Syktyvkar and Kirov during 1993-94, I examine the relationship of forces currently pushing for political change and the forces of resistance found in Russian political culture tradition.
It has long been assumed that Russian political culture would reflect the centuries of authoritarian rule that had characterized both Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union. Yet, as the Soviet Union neared its collapse, scholarship began to emerge that showed a population "primed" for its arrival into a world of liberal democratic nations. These conclusions fundamentally contradicted scholarship positing that Russian political culture would continue to exhibit an attachment to tradition. I present this dissertation as an alternative perspective. Ultimately, my empirically-based findings exhibit some evidence of Western democratic values in Russian political culture. Yet, the dominant trend among the Russian people is expressed in support for the structures and values that characterized Soviet tradition. These findings are far from straightforward, however, reflecting the complexities that underlie a political culture in a transition environment.
On the basis of the cross-cutting cleavages in Russian attitudes and behavior, I apply and develop the concept of "formlessness" for explaining political culture adaptation. To carry this out, I go beyond a simple test of competing perspectives concerning Russian political culture to address issues of broad theoretical and methodological importance. In this respect, I express serious reservations about the use of quantitative surveys to test political culture characteristics in unstable societies. To remedy the inadequacies of the quantitative surveys, I recommend a qualitative, yet systematic, approach to the study of political culture. While the explanation of Russian political culture is important in itself, I maintain that this research approach is applicable to the study of political culture in societies that are undergoing similar transitions, especially in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Issue Date:1996
Rights Information:Copyright 1996 Alexander, James Thornshack
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9702440
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9702440

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