Socialism and the Twentieth Century: Master Narratives and Historiographies

AHA Session 288
Monday, January 5, 2015: 11:00 AM-1:00 PM
Morgan Suite (New York Hilton, Second Floor)
Jonathan R. Zatlin, Boston University
Unlikely Bedfellows: The Plan and the Market in a Stalinist Economy
Elena Osokina, University of South Carolina Columbia
A New Cultural History of the Soviet Century?
Anna Krylova, Duke University
Reconsidering “State Capitalism” in Light of the Sources
Andrew Jay Sloin, Baruch College, City University of New York

Session Abstract

Since the demise of the Soviet Union, historians of the Soviet experience have constructed a variety of paradigms intended to account for both the internal logic of the Soviet system and its decline and collapse in 1991. The most influential of these paradigms have tended to view the Soviet system as either a failed misadventure in socialism, an ill-fated experiment in forced modernization, or an alternative and, thus, inherently flawed model of non-capitalist modernity. This roundtable panel will interrogate a series of leading conceptual frameworks concerning “actually existing socialism,” in light of recent archival research on the nature and structure of Soviet economy, society, and culture. Collectively, the presenters examine how, following the demise of the Soviet system, dominant interpretive paradigms implicitly internalized the logic of an emerging global neo-liberal order to retroactively construct masternarratives of “inevitable” Soviet decline. Drawing on recently excavated sources from the Soviet archives, the contributors to this panel intend to re-evaluate the fundamental dynamics and structures of Soviet society, with particular emphasis placed throughout on the relationship between the Soviet system and the dynamics of global capitalism in the twentieth century.

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