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Main page / "Knowledge. Understanding. Skill" Journal / Contents / 2014 / No. 4

Fursov A. I. The Soviet System and the Poverty of Political Science (The USSR in the Light of Some Political Science Schemes). . ( )

(Moscow University for the Humanities,
Institute of System-Strategic Analysis, Moscow)

Abstract ♦ The article deals with the problem of applicability of basic concepts and schemes of Western political science, such as “new class”, “state-class”, “state-party”, “partocracy”, to the Soviet society. Basic concepts and theories of Western social science as a whole, and those of political science in particular, have been formed as a reflection of a certain type of reality — of the bourgeois Western European one. An immanent feature of this reality is a clear-cut distinction between economic, social, and political spheres, between power and property, between religion and politics etc. This kind of distinction has determined both the disciplinary structure and the conceptual language of modern social science. But can these concepts and disciplines which reflect only the reality of the bourgeois core of capitalist system be applied, firstly, beyond this core; and secondly, to non-capitalist systems, be it pre-capitalist ones or systemically anti-capitalist (the USSR)?

Mainstream Western political science insists on its universal character as a discipline, but such a position contradicts the principles of system analysis, historicism, and dialectics. The insistence on the universality of Western-centric and capital-centric social science is, in fact, an intellectual correlation of the expansion (“universalization”) of capital and the establishment of its political and economic domination on the world scale. In a paradoxical way, this insistence ignores the fact that practically all attempts to depict and describe noncapitalist systems using the conceptual language of capital-centric scholarship have failed. Such failure is especially evident in the attempts to conceptualize Soviet society in the terms of Western political science.

The interpretation of the Soviet dominant, system-forming group — the nomenklatura — as a “class”, a kind of counterpart of the bourgeoisie in capitalist society, is undermined by the fact that the nomenklatura had no ownership of the material factors of production. “Property” (“class”) qualities and functions here are not separated from the ones of “power”. An ad hoc term “state-class” is acceptable as a partial solution only from a descriptive and metaphorical point of view.

The same is also true for the notion of “etatization” of historical communism. First, the phenomenon known as the “Soviet state” was not just a primary “property-holder”, but it was the only “property-holder”, which is in principle atypical for the state as a specific institution. Secondly, the state is a “partial” phenomenon by definition; it exists as an integral part of such oppositions as “state — class”, “state — civil society” etc. If the state encompasses the whole society and dissolves it in itself, it is being transformed into a different, non-state type of power.

Attempts to “politicize” Soviet society (in line with the scheme of “politics dominating over economy”) or to interpret it as a system headed by a “partocracy” fail in a similar way.

If politics is something more than just a struggle for power, if we analyze it according to the principles of system analysis and historicism, then politics is a very special sphere. Its function is the regulation of extra-economic relations of nonproduction type between agents which are also subjects. There can be no political relations between a slave and a slave owner, between a serf and a feudal lord. The CPSU was the only subject in Soviet society (membership in the party was in fact the right to be a part of this collective subject): hence, the relations of the CPSU with the population and other organizations were not of a political nature. Moreover, other organizations could exist in Soviet society only if they acknowledged the exclusive monopoly of the CPSU on this subject status.

The term “party” derives from “pars” (“part”). A party is a partial, political, and legal phenomenon. The CPSU was an all-embracing, nonpolitical, and extralegal phenomenon. That is why the term “partocracy” can only serve as a metaphor.

An adequate analysis of the Soviet system demands the construction of a theory and a discipline which would reflect the nature of this society. Conceptual interpretations which reflect other systems, but nevertheless are forcefully applied to the USSR are counterproductive and lead researchers into a deadlock.

Keywords: historical communism, systemic anticapitalism, new class, state-class, state-party, partocracy, Soviet system, Soviet society.

Fursov Andrey Ilyich, Candidate of History, Director, Centre for Russian Studies, Institute of Fundamental and Applied Studies, Moscow University for the Humanities; Director, Institute of System-Strategic Studies; Member, International Academy of Science (Innsbruck, Austria); Member, Union of Writers of Russia. Postal address: 5 Yunosti St., Moscow, Russian Federation, 111395. Tel.: +7 (499) 374-59-61. E-mail:


Citation: Fursov, A. I. (2014) Sovetskaia sistema i nishcheta politologii (SSSR skvoz' prizmu nekotorykh politologicheskikh skhem) [The Soviet System and the Poverty of Political Science (The USSR in the Light of Some Political Science Schemes)]. Znanie. Ponimanie. Umenie, no. 4, pp. 81–98. (In Russ.).

Submission date: 30.08.2014.



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