The 129th NZ issue is thematically split into two main sections. For all the differences between their subjects, the section have certain similarities on a deeper level: both are centred around the problem of time and of alternatives that belong to the past, having unfortunately never been realised.
The first thematic section, “Twenty Years Together: Russia and Vladimir Putin”, focuses on Russia’s past decade, which was, without reservation, politically dominated by Putin. Recent suggestions to amend the Constitution of the Russian Federation are proof that there are plans to extend this domination beyond the end of his final presidential term. In “What Happened to Russian Society over Putin’s Two Decades”, Tatyana Vorozheikina analyses general societal shifts that took place during the 20 years of Putin’s rule. Sergey Ryzhenkov describes pros and cons of electoral authoritarianism viewed as a reproduction mechanism for the existing regime. Aleksey Makarkin’s piece, “The President of the Russian Federation, Russian Orthodox Church and the Problem of Spiritual Authority”, considers religious resources contributing to the symbolic legitimation of the Russian president’s power.
Aleksandr Kynev offers a fascinating history of electoral legislative changes made over the past 20 years in order to ensure the ruling party’s initial advantages over its competitors. The section is complemented by an article in which Huw du Boulay, a young British sociologist, talks about some political aspects of such major sports events as the 2018 World Cup that was hosted by Russia (Case Study).
Aleksey Levinson’s regular column (Sociological Lyrics) and a piece by Maksim Kulaev, published in Culture of Politics, also fit the context of Russia’s contemporary political affairs. The former examines changes in the Russian perception of the late 1980s – early 1990s democratic changes, epitomised by the fall of the Berlin Wall. The latter exposes a continuity that characterises the last decade’s social protests in Russia: protests that, despite having different agendas, were linked by a common logic.
Further articles, based on the Ukrainian material, work well as a counterpoint to the opening theme. Mikhail Minakov summarises the results of the past century of the Ukrainian political system, expounding its organisational principles in different historical periods. In “Emotional Matrices of Ukrainian Combatants in Antiterrorist OperationThemed Fiction”, Vsevolod Gerasimov reveals an authoritative pretext typical for the self-identification of Ukrainian participants in the Donbass armed conflict, tracing it back to the sociocultural topos of the Cossack community.
As a logical move from the contemporary political reference system to the epistemological horizon that defines it, we publish an interview conducted by Richard Marshall (as part of the longSummary standing NZ series) with the British philosopher Quassim Cassam, in which they discuss discursive mechanisms set to destroy the system of knowledge production, ones which allow fake news, conspiracy theories and other populist manipulations of the public opinion to become the dominant factors in the shaping of the mass worldview.
Igor Kobylin continues his philosophical reflections on discursive dispositives of modernity, putting Yuri Lotman’s late semiotic works into the late Socialist cultural context and relating them to the Foucauldian notion of gouvernementalite. This conceptual topic is echoed by a story of two Czech travellers who drove across the USSR (Aleksandr Bobrakov-Timoshkin, “The Soviet 1960s through the Eyes of Socialist Bloc «Progressors». Hanzelka and Zikmund in the USSR”).
The issue’s second section, “Past Continues and Past in the Future: Ideology, Politics and Art”, brings up the question of various sociocultural alternatives left to the future by times past and passing. Anatoly Ryasov in “Heidegger, Passion for Aberration and the Future” shows how breakthroughs into philosophy of technology, created by the German philosopher and still relevant today, were achieved at a cost of tragically succumbing to an ideological temptation. In “Revolutionising Writing, Art and Media Techniques. Aesthetic Theories of Walter Benjamin and Boris Arvatov”, Evgeny Bylina considers the practice of reflection upon the material nature of the media and the social nature of the arts, comparing some of its more radical forms typical for the 1920s left-wing thought. Denis Shalaginov’s “Antiproduction of the Future (Dissatisfaction with Techno-Spinozism)” reconstructs the fast-moving intellectual history of accelerationism, querying its potential to rehabilitate utopian thinking. Fedor Nikolai expands on the subject, focusing on his analysis of “Inventing the Future: Postcapitaism and a World without Work”, a new book by the leading theorists of accelerationism Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams.
The issue concludes with our regular New Books section.