Hoffman on Europe, The Soviets, and Socialism

Hoffman presents the Soviet Union much like any other state in Europe during the post enlightenment era of the 19th and 20th centuries: development oriented, with a focus on medical and industrial innovation, especially among the peasant class. Hoffman points out, however, that Russia (first Imperial, then Soviet) arrived “late to the party” so to speak when compared to their European counterparts. The peasants in France took it upon themselves to cast off the shackles of the monarchy at the end of the 18th century, while Great Britain systemically phased out the power of the monarchy through a series of elections, rendering the King all but a figurehead by the beginning of the First World War. Russia, however, despite attempts in the middle of the 18th century to make systematic changes, did not, as a whole, begin to develop as their European counterparts until the overthrow of the Tsar in 1917. Despite Soviet Russia’s late arrival to the development game played by their western counterparts, and their constricted form of government that ostensibly disqualified the USSR from consideration as a state that achieved modernity, Hoffman cites many parallels of development in Soviet Russia that mirror developments elsewhere in Europe. The most important of these parallels in development is the concept of scientism (the organization of all social, political, and economic endeavors under a scientific norm) which Hoffman discusses early on in his article. The Soviet Union, despite its communist organization and totalitarian regime, enacted many of the same governmental practices as their counterparts, including their “social welfare policies, economic consolidation and planning, and machine age utopiasim.” Hoffman therefore shows the reader a striking, and oft ignored series of similarities among the countries of Europe and the way in which they developed alongside one another. He also highlights the horrors of such development when he mentions the raw strength of science and the level headed critical thinking the practice is akin to provided both logical justification for the Holocaust, and the chemical component (Zyklon B) for its gas chambers, hinting at the horror of humanity in his conclusion, particularly how society, being machine-like in nature, tends to set itself on a path to destruction when it intended the achievement of an ideal society, much like the Soviet Union derailing on its quest for perfection (unattainable ideals as Hoffman puts it) in the postmodern era.