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Other titles in the Pitt Series in Russian and East European Studies series:
From Darkness to Light: Class, Consciousness, & Salvation in Revolutionary Russia (Pitt Series in Russian and East European Studies)by Igal Halfin
"In From Darkness to Light and Terror in My Soul (in reality two parts of a single study), Igal Halfin undertakes the difficult task of defending the primacy of Marxist ideology in molding the Soviet system....Halfin's reader is often obliged to work too hard. Still, the effort is worth it in the end; and the payoff is a probing analysis of a unique culture in which party-speak itself has become a social force as potent as any material agent." Martin Malia, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
Synopses & Reviews
In this interdisciplinary and controversial work, Igal Halfin looks at Marxist theory in a new light, attempting to break down the divisions between history, philosophy, and literary theory. Halfin's approach is methodological, combining intellectual and social history to argue that if we are to take the Bolshevik revolutionary experiment seriously we have to carefully examine the ideological presupposition of both Communist ideological texts as well as the archival documents that social historians believe represent the true reflection of lived experience in order to determine what impacts these texts had on actual reality. Marxism, class, and consciousness should be turned from a subject of analysis to its object.
From Darkness to Light begins by examining the Marxist philosophy of history as understood by the Russian Revolutionary movement. Halfin argues that the Soviet government derived its cues as to how it could bring about a classless society from a peculiar blending of eschatological thinking with modern techniques of power. Halfin then offers a case study of the Bolshevik attempt in the 1920s to create the "Communist New Man" by amalgamating the characteristics of the intellectual and the worker in order to eradicate the petit-bourgeois traits attributed by the regime to the pre-revolutionary individualistic and decadent student. His approach suggests that "proletarianization" should be understood not as a change in the social composition of the student body, but as the introduction of the language of class into the universities. Through the examination of the process of the literary construction of class identity, Halfin concludes that the student class affiliation in the Soviet Union of the 1920s was not simply a matter of social origins, but of students' ability, using a set of ritualized procedures, to defend their claims to a working-class identity. Halfin's conclusions raise important questions about Marxist theory as it relates to class, historical progress, and communism itself.
"From Darkness to Light will be perceived as a milestone in the scholarship of the early Soviet period and of Soviet Marxism more generally. The boldness of this book resides in its innovative combination of two scholarly approaches that have long been distinct in the context of twentieth century Russia: intellectual and social history. The result is a book that will provoke much heated discussion among scholars of early Soviet culture as well as ideology scholars working outside the Russian context. It is a fine example of how interdisciplinary work on the early Soviet period ought to be done." Eric Naiman, University of California at Berkeley
In this interdisciplinary and controversial work, Igal Halfin takes an original and provocative stance on Marxist theory, and attempts to break down the divisions between history, philosophy, and literary theory.
About the Author
Igal Halfin teaches Russian and European modern history at Tel Aviv University. Born in the Ukraine and raised in Israel, he received his Ph.D. from Columbia University. He also studied comparative literature at Yale University and philosophy at Tel Aviv University. Presently he is the recipient of a research grant from the Israeli Academy of Sciences, and was a fellow at both Woodrow Wilson Institute in Washington, and the Harriman Institute at Columbia University. His publications include: "From Darkness to Light: Student Communist Autobiographies of the 1920s," which appeared in Jahrbucher fur Geschichte Osteuopas, and "The Rape of the Intelligentsia as a Proletarian Foundational Myth," published in the Russian Review. He is editor of a forthcoming volume entitled Revolution and Language: The Making of Modern Political Identity, which is based on the proceedings of an interdisciplanarian international conference held in Tel Aviv in the winter of 1999.
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