Modernity and Soviet Socialism

David Hoffman’s article analyzes the meanings of what it means to be a modern state and how the Soviet Union has historically fit into this definition. A modern state is recognized as a nation-state that has developed a system of parliamentary democracy and a social and economic system based on industrial capitalism (Hoffman, 246). He acknowledges that the Soviet Union did not develop at the same rate or way compared to its European counterparts, particularly France and England. Hoffman argues that although the Soviet Union remained an autocracy until 1917 and had distinct political and social systems, it did develop several characteristics and fundamental ideas during the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century that Hoffman aligns with modernity. These developments include mass politics and a greater effort by the state to regulate and quantify the state’s population.
Many Soviet policies show development of mass politics and while it was not on the same scale as the French Revolution, Soviet propaganda, demonstrations, and campaigns were all focused on involving the greater public. The ultimate goal of involving and integrating the greater population into political structures was to create a society that was both conscience and cultured (Hoffman, 247). One particularly interesting development is that the Soviet Union became increasingly concerned with the capacity and health of society. Officials became interested in factors such as working conditions, urban planning, social hygiene and the spread of disease (Hoffman, 253). The Soviet Union took interest in the welfare and behavior of society later than many other countries in Western Europe, however this development and control of social welfare programs allowed the state the calculate population statistics and potential capabilities in both economic and military sectors as these areas were in the interest of national security (Hoffman, 250-251).
Hoffman closes his analysis with the argument that the developments mentioned above paired with the socialist ideology were unable to keep up and evolve with the Soviet Union’s European counterparts as they moved into the postmodern era. This was partly a result of the Soviet Union’s inability to successfully promote new technology and service sectors (Hoffman, 257).

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