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Reviewed Work(s): Russia and the Idea of the West: Gorbachev, Intellectuals and the End of
the Cold War by Robert D. English
Review by: Roger D. Markwick
Source: Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 53, No. 6 (Sep., 2001), pp. 953-955
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
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Accessed: 02-04-2017 18:57 UTC

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EUROPE-ASIA STUDIES, Vol. 53, No. 6, 2001, 953-968 S T

a, Franc*s


Robert D. English, Russia and the Idea of the West: Gorbachev, Intellectuals and the End of
the Cold War. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000, xii + 401 pp., ?25.00 ($40.00)
h/b, ?11.50 ($18.50) p/b.

IN THE WEST, Mikhail Gorbachev is largely credited with ending the Cold War. In post-Soviet
Russia, he is often scorned for destroying the Soviet system he set out to reform. No 'Gorby
mania' here. This polarised perspective on Gorbachev, Time magazine's 1987 'man of the
year', suggests that how you appraise Gorbachev depends on where you sit: East or West? If
you were an impoverished, reform-minded Russian intellectual who supported perestroika you
would have good reason to feel disappointed, if not betrayed. If you are a Western scholar, who
largely identifies with 'democracy' and 'human rights', that is, the predominant discourse of
contemporary capitalism, then it is more than likely you will sympathise with Gorbachev's
failed aspirations for the Soviet Union to 'rejoin the common stream of world civilisation' (p.
228). Robert English is such a scholar, who set out to discover the source of Gorbachev's 'new
thinking' about international relations.
English's book is a response to what he sees as the largely unsatisfactory explanations for
perestroika and new thinking advanced by Western students of international relations. In
particular, he takes issue with those who attribute new thinking to a sudden recognition by the
Soviet leadership in the mid-1980s that the Soviet Union was lagging behind the West
economically and militarily and urgently needed to do something about it. These 'crisis',
'leadership' and 'institution'-focused explanations, that English largely attributes to the 'power-
centered' approaches of 'neo-liberalism' (pp. 3-4), have neglected the 'broader social-intellec-
tual context' that had been nourishing reformist conceptions within the Soviet Union since the
mid to late 1960s. Accordingly, English rebuffs analyses that attribute Soviet liberalisation in
the mid-1980s to the immediate decision making of a narrow group of Soviet security experts
who recognised that the USSR could no longer compete with the USA or simply to
Gorbachev's 'dynamic' leadership (p. 3). Instead, English locates the 1980s flowering of 'new
thinking's global-integrationist outlook' in the 'coalescing' over the previous two decades of
a 'powerful alternative worldview' among a 'Westernising', 'liberal-reformist' community
within the Soviet intelligentsia (pp. 2, 10).
Armed with his conviction that 'ideas', and their intellectual bearers, 'mattered' (p. 14),
English has gathered a rich and impressive array of empirical sources, published and
unpublished, archival and oral, to depict the emergence of this Westernising, reformist,
intellectual cohort. For him, the 'thaw' and Khrushchev's 20th Party Congress denunciation of
Stalin were the crucial markers. They precipitated an awakening of a critically minded
intellectual elite that owed much to the traditions of the classical Russian intelligentsia. A
critical perspective on domestic life, past and present, coupled with a break from the
xenophobic isolation of the Stalin era, allowed a 'new opening to the West' (p. 51) which
unleashed a 'cascade of information about the outside world' (p. 64).
In the Khrushchev years numerous institutes were revived or established which had as their
brief the study of foreign affairs, among them, Eugen Varga's Institute of World Economy and

ISSN 0966-8136 print; ISSN 1465-3427 online/01/060953-16 ? 2001 University of Glasgow

DOI: 10.1080/09668130120078577

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International Relations (IMEMO), the Institute of the Economy of the World Sociali
(IEMSS) and the Institute of the USA. In Prague, the journal Problemy mira i sotsia
established in 1958. Such institutes and journals became 'oases' of intellectual li
which introduced young Soviet liberals to a refreshing array of hitherto forbidden
Marxist and otherwise, from Lukacs to Berdyaev. Many of these young akadem
'Praguers' especially, were to surface two decades on as key advisers to Gorbachev
Arbatov, Anatolii Chernyaev, Gennadii Gerasimov and Georgii Shakhnazarov. Expo
non-Soviet ideas eroded Stalinist stereotypes about capitalist stagnation and Western a
anti-Sovietism. Experiencing Western life through academic exchanges and inte
conferences further eroded such stereotypes and cast doubt on the nature of the Sovi
Economists looked increasingly to the market, while the prominent atomic physici
Sakharov envisaged 'convergence' (p. 108) between capitalism and socialism.
English's painstaking research has certainly brought to light the hitherto half-hidden
of Westernising thought that laid the groundwork for perestroika, new thinking and, ult
the demise of the Soviet Union. However, the problem is that in equating the in
tradition primarily with 'Westernism' (pp. 51, 80), rather than as the conscience of th
and identifying it as the principal current in Soviet reformism, he diminishes the
driving forces of reformism in the 1950s and 1960s. A confluence of Russian literary h
with Marxism and neo-Leninism was the prime mover of anti-Stalinist, reformist thi
during the 'thaw'. 'Thick journals', such as Aleksandr Tvardovsky's Novyi mir, were the
primary means of disseminating such views. Far from there being an 'organic' connection (p.
126) between the 'thaw' and the subsequent emergence of new thinking, there was, as English
himself observes elsewhere, a 'sharp break' (p. 11): the crushing of the Prague 'spring', which
had 'transfixed' (p. 110) the reformers. Soviet tanks shattered the hopes of the 1960s generation
for a reinvigorated, democratised, Soviet socialism. The ensuing disillusionment saw much of
the intelligentsia increasingly repudiating the Soviet experience. Western-oriented new thinking
was born of dashed hopes for Soviet reform.
The Brezhnev period reinforced such tendencies. Intellectual repression, academic exchanges
facilitated by d6tente, the Helsinki human rights accords and economic stagnation further
undermined confidence in the Soviet system and increasingly turned the intellectual gaze
westward. This was particularly true of those whose business it was to study or deal with the
West. Foreign affairs analysts and diplomats, who were directly exposed to the West, looked
to Western capitalism and representative democracy as alternatives to what they perceived to
be a moribund socialism: 'Sooner or later those who worked in the West for any length of time
all came to the conclusion that our system was just no good' (p. 105). Aleksandr Yakovlev,
'exiled' as ambassador to Canada for a decade, returned to the USSR as a fervent zapadnik.
It is no accident that Yakovlev, as Gorbachev's 'preeminent domestic and foreign policy
adviser' (p. 208), played a crucial role in formulating the liberal, 'integrationist', anti-class
struggle doctrine that was new thinking. Nor is it an accident that those layers of the Soviet
elite and their offspring who had most contact with the West were quickest to embrace
capitalism as the Soviet bloc crumbled.
English rightly claims that the onset of new thinking signaled the demise of Stalinist 'old
thinking', which saw the world divided into two hostile camps and looked to economic
autarchy and military strength to safeguard Soviet interests. However, he gives no credence to
the idea of 'capitalist encirclement', despite the fact that the Soviet Union was virtually under
siege, ideologically, materially and militarily, from its inception to its demise. The 'long' Cold
War from 1917 was not of Stalin's making. Further, English mistakenly equates old 'Stalinist'
international relations thinking with a hard, class perspective. In fact, Stalinism, despite its
militant rhetoric, embraced a realist, state-centric conception of international relations at the
expense of international class struggle. This was a qualitative break with the internationalism

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era, which
era, English
English erroneously
associates with Russia's
with "Asiatic"
Russia's 'nationalistic, "A
heritage' (pp. (pp.
New thinking,
New thinking,
while abandoning
militarised conception
Stalin's of
militarised concept
international relations,
jettisoned class
in favour
of 'universal human
in favour of 'universal h
values' andand
a '"grand
a '"grand
vision" of
of integration
with the West' (p.
225), the
225), forgetting that u
contemporary capitalism
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his award- determinants, his
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broad perspective
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on the community
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enables us to community enable
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confidence in the Soviet idea succumbed to the allure of the West.

The University of Newcastle, Australia ROGER D. MARKWICK

David Lockwood, The Destruction of the Soviet Union: a Study in Globalization

Macmillan, 2000, vi + 264 pp, ?45.00h/b.

THIS BOOK IS A VALUABLE CONTRIBUTION to understanding not only the internatio

breakdown of the USSR but the troubles of post-Soviet Russia's integration
world as well.

David Lockwood starts quite rightly by assuming that the forces that led to the destruction
of the communist economic system were global ones. What is important is that they continue
to exercise a major influence on post-Soviet Russia.
In most countries globalisation has led to significant transformations of both governmental
institutions and non-governmental organisations. The role of the state had to be reshaped (p.
182), and the economic pretensions of states lowered (p. 186). One of most meaningful results
of globalisation has been the weakening of the capacity of national states to perform as
economic actors. Capital is increasingly able to make its own decisions in its own interests (p.
31). States find themselves unable to control their 'national' economies, and in a relatively
weak position vis-a-vis global capital (p. 1). Rivalries of the global era are determined by the
power of capital, not its territorial or geographical location. This is the lesson the Russian
government should have learnt from globalisation.
Lockwood deems that globalisation was neither started, nor can it be stopped, by the whims
of politicians. It results from fundamental changes in the production structure of the world
economy (p. 36). Owing to globalisation, new economic actors appeared in the Soviet Union
during the perestroika years-enterprise owners, company managers, bankers. New professions
(customs brokers, private security officers, public relations experts) and new recruiting
practices were introduced. Globalisation has redistributed the labour resources among sectors
(from industry, science, culture and education to finance, trade, insurance, food supply and
Globalisation also had some bearing on restructuring of enterprises. Lockwood suggests that
successful economic units do not have to be of gigantic size, nor do they have to occupy large
swathes of territory (p. 25).
The logic of Lockwood's analysis leads us to conclude that globalisation should be viewed
as a source of both risks (mass migrations, unemployment as a result of increased competition
in the labour market) and opportunities (restructuring and upgrading enterprises). The verdict
of the world market, in Lockwood's opinion, is a harsh one. For enterprises and industries that
could achieve world standards, adjust their management methods and somehow plug into the
globalised manufacturing system, the collapse of the command economy created the oppor-

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