Taking a deep breath, as it were, before a special issue which will entirely revolve around a single topic, NZ displays greater thematic diversity than usual in No. 29. This issue’s Liberal Heritage features an excerpt from Luc Boltanski’s and Ève Chiapello’s The New Spirit of Capitalism (Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme), a path-breaking sociological study of changes in the ideology of capitalism, and in its relations with its critics, over the past 30 years. A full Russian translation of the book is soon going to be published in the NZ Library series. The chapter selected, entitled Which liberation?, shows how capitalism responds to criticism by integrating demands for individual and collective liberation into its framework. Our editorial introduction, How should we criticise capitalism?, gives a general overview of Boltanski’s and Chiapello’s study, and argues that it is high time we learned to distinguish between liberalism and capitalism.
Next comes the text of a lecture by historian Alexander Yanov, entitled Russia’s civilisational instability, where it is argued that throughout its history, Russia has wavered between a European ▒supra-identity’ and a self-destructive denial of that identity; the task now being to stabilise that European identity in order to avert new historical catastrophes.
Our first special topic is entitled What’s Asia to Us and deals with Russian images of East Asia. Historian Marlène Laruelle draws on the examples of Eurasianism and the Aryan/Scythian myth about the origins of the Russians to show that Russian political thinkers’ discourse on Asia has usually had little to do with the reality of Asian countries. Rather, it has been an ideological subterfuge used to appear “more European than the Europeans” (Thinking Asia or Thinking Russia?). Journalists Alexander Kulanov and Yuliya Stonogina discuss how Russians and Japanese construct their images of each other, and argue that these mostly positive yet superficial images tend to obfuscate political problems (such as the Kuril islands/Northern Territories issue) and leave them unsolved (Image and Reality: Japan and Russia as Seen by Each Other). Political scientist Alexander Lukin, author of a recent book on the history of Russian perceptions of China, reviews these perceptions from the 18th century to the present day, and claims that Russia needs a more pragmatic approach in its relations with China (The Evolution of China’s Image in Russia and Russian-Chinese Relations). Sociologist Gilbert Rozman (in Reinterpreting Russian Images of East Asia, 1972-2003) shows how the different strands in ideological and scholarly perceptions of that region which existed in Soviet times have ushered in obstructive and ambiguous policies towards Russia’ East Asian neighbours, which are now slowly giving way to a more realistic and pragmatic attitude. Finally, literary scholar Igor Yermachenko reviews uses of Chinese themes in “post-modern” Russian poetry and prose, quoting from numerous works and drawing attention to political uses of Chinese imagery in recent writings that seek to glorify imperialist anti-Westernism (From “the Enemy in the West” to “the Enemy in the East”: Chinese Stratagems in Russian Post-Modern Literature and their Historical Context).
Yevgeny Saburov devotes his Humane Economics column to the much-discussed Russian brain drain. By contrasting Russian and Chinese attitudes to their respective diasporas, Saburov shows that instead of lamenting the exodus of active and well-educated Russians, we should see them as potential future investors into the Russian economy and gear the educational system towards giving people a more attractive and up-to-date view of Russian culture instead of feeding them with worn-out clichés that will make them want to shed their Russian identity once abroad (Brain Drain and Investment Hunger).
The second thematic section, entitled Shades of the Economy, presents new research on the Russian shadow economy, and ways to make Russian companies abide by the law and pay all their taxes and dues. Referring to two series of interviews with Russian businesspeople, Vadim Radaev relates how they define “white”, “grey” and “black” practice and how there has recently been a shift towards greater acceptance of formal rules of the game (Russian Business on the Road to Legalisation). Yury Latov argues that the legalisation of economic activities is still strongly inhibited by cultural factors, especially Russian entrepreneurs’ negative image in society (Russians’ Anti-Capitalist Mentality as a Barrier to Legalisation). Georgy Satarov discusses the roots and nature of corruption as revealed by a study of who Russian entrepreneurs consider to be their friends and enemies.
Columnist Alexei Levinson addresses the same topic in his Sociological Notes by quoting interviewee’s perceptions of the shadow economy. He demonstrates that entrepreneurs have recently begun stepping out of the shadow, and discusses various explanations why this may have happened (In the Shadow of the Economy).
The Politics of Culture section contains an article by Lev Usyskin, former editor with NZ, on Public Relations and the fears of total “PR-isation” that have recently been voiced in Russia (PR: Apology of a Profession). Usyskin argues that Public Relations experts often play a more salutary role than is generally assumed, and that their power to manipulate people is being vastly exaggerated.
Our third focus is on changing perceptions of Pornography through history. Saratov-based literary scholar Vadim Mikhailin shows how, when and why Ancient Greek depictions of homosexual scenes came to be regarded as pornographic in 18th-20th century Europe. Historian Benjamin Guichard illustrates how early 20th century Tsarist censorship defined pornography, and how it went about fighting it. Finally, cinema historian Linda Williams, in a long excerpt from her book Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and the “Frenzy of the Visible”, discusses the history of pornographic movies and computer games in the United States in the 20th century, singling out distinct periods in their evolution and showing how obscenity has moved “on/scene” in public life.
The Morals and Mores rubric features an article by movie critic Dmitry Komm entitled An Arch Without a Flood, where he argues that well-known Russian director Alexander Sokurov mostly produces a particular kind of kitsch posing as high-brow intellectual or “spiritual” cinema.
This issue’s New Institution is the recently created Institute for Theoretical Studies in the Humanities. The Journals Review includes our customary review of recent Russian journals, as well as a panorama of Portuguese literary and cultural periodicals by António Sousa Ribeiro (The Portuguese Journal Landscape: A Brief Overview).
Finally, the New Books section features a review of recent ethnographic literature on rites of passage, and the reinterpretation of this topic in the interests of nation-building, by Vassily Kostyrko, as well as reviews of recent books on political philosophy.