Director of the Visiting Fellows Programme
Anna Korhonen
Head of International Affairs
tel. +358-(0)50-563 63 07

Coordinator
Eeva Korteniemi
tel. +358-(0)50-4150 571

aleksanteri-fellows [at] helsinki.fi

Aleksanteri Institute
P.O.Box 42 (Unioninkatu 33)
FI-00014 University of Helsinki

aleksanteri [at] helsinki.fi
firstname.lastname [at] helsinki.fi

Location & Connections

 

Visiting Fellows 2016-2017

Anna Paretskaya, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
“Middle Class and the Twilight of Socialism: Discourses of Politics and Culture in the Late Soviet Union” (mid-May - mid-July 2017)

Biography:
Anna Paretskaya is a political and cultural sociologist, currently teaching at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her primary research is in political and economic liberalizations in Europe and Eurasia in the late twentieth century. Her work on this topic has won awards from the Council for European Studies and the American Sociological Association’s sections on theory, comparative-historical sociology, and sociology of culture. She is currently working on a book manuscript titled Middle Class and the Twilight of Socialism: Discourses of Politics and Culture in the Late Soviet Union. Her other current research projects focus on the culture of recent political protest movements in Wisconsin (2011) and Russia (2011–2012). She is also a coeditor of the international journal Laboratorium: Russian Review of Social Research.

Short description of ongoing research:
At the Aleksanteri Institute, I will be working on a portion of my book project Middle Class and the Twilight of Socialism: Discourses of Politics and Culture in the Late Soviet Union. This books is an intervention into neoclassical sociology, a paradigm that emerged following the demise of socialism in Europe and which centers on the origins and varieties of postsocialist capitalisms. Drawing on variety of historical sources (official and underground publications, government documents, opinion polls, etc.), it shows that during late socialism the Communist Party of the Soviet Union inadvertently promoted individuality, self-realization, autonomy, and privacy—the values indicative more of post–World War II capitalism and the Western middle class than of the proletariat of socialism’s revolutionary period. These values resonated with a growing segment of the Soviet urban population, who were more educated and skilled, upwardly mobile, and consumerist. The nascent Soviet middle class became an “accidental agent” of capitalism when its members increasingly asserted their aspirations for and their right to individuality and personal success, in order to achieve which they engaged in quasi-market-like practices in politics, cultural production and consumption, and the economy, forming, spontaneously, networks autonomous from the socialist state. Among other findings, this project argues that the intricate relationship between the ideals of collectivism and postcollectivism played a role not only in the declining commitment to socialism on the part of Soviet citizens but also in what followed socialism’s demise, especially in terms of chances for the emergence of the culture of capitalism and the culture of democratic politics.

Email: aparetskaya[AT]wisc.edu

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Katalin Miklóssy, Sigrid Kaasik-Krogerus