№ 1, 2020
Detectives, Spy Novels and Nation-State Boltanski L. Mysteries and Conspiracies: In the Wake of Investigations / Translated from French by A.Zakharevich; Scientific editor — O. Kharkhordin. St Petersburg: The European University in St Petersburg Press, 2019
“Mysteries and Conspiracies” is a fundamental research study by Luc Boltanski written during the last (as of today) phase of development of his thought. The author considers the puzzles of classical detective and spy novels from the perspective of the analysis of the structure of social knowledge, in particular, sociological knowledge. The theoretical puzzle, in this case, is conditioned by the “evidential paradigm” in the understanding of Carlo Ginzburg and the question to what extent sociological knowledge repro- duces the models inherent in classical detectives and spy novels or is related to them. At the same time, the sociological examination of “mystery” and “conspiracy” within the framework of these genres represents an interest in itself.
According to Boltanski, these genres not only arise within the frame- work of a nation-state but also reproduce its image as a necessary framework. A detective is built upon local anxiety, secrecy as a designation of crime i.e., reducing the opacity to criminal in a legal and moral sense. In contrast, a spy novel, especially in its mature forms, reflects a large-scale alarm and, in particular, the state’s inability to serve its purpose. At the same time, the development of a spy novel as a genre demonstrates the logic of a “constructed reality”, forming a compelling rhyme with synchronous sociological theories. Boltanski distinguishes between the sociological cognition and the models of “the imaginary” in criminal investigations, investigative journalism, detective and spy narratives. At the same time, the author points out to the similarity between the sociological imagination and the great social novel of the 19th century, suggesting that the latter can be regarded as a model for maintaining a critical attitude to a cognizable reality.
№ 1, 2018
Creating and Protecting a New Society Hoffmann D.L. Cultivating the Masses: Modern State Practices and Soviet Socialism, 1914—1939 / Translated from English by A.Tereshchenko. Moscow: New Literary Observer, 2018
The article presents a review of the Russian translation of the book by David Hoffmann, the US historian, “Cultivating the Masses: Modern State Practices and Soviet Socialism”, published in the original language in 2011. According to the author of the review, this book is valuable and interesting particularly because it presents the comparative analysis of a number of practices and institutions that were traditionally viewed as the Soviet specificity. However, this is not about “generalizing” the Soviet experience. In contrast, the main point of the book is that the Soviet system that developed by the 1930s was unique, but its uniqueness is not determined by the unprecedented, or fundamentally new practices. The specificity of the Soviet Union lies in the fact that the country used and developed the worldwide methods of state violence formed before and during the World War I with an unprecedented intensity. The example of the Soviet Union allows Hoffmann to clearly demonstrate the consequences of the situation, when the institutions and practices of the “welfare state” are not checked by the rights of citizens. The Soviet case is extreme precisely because such institutions and practices were able to fully develop, albeit without any meaningful resistance from the citizens.
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