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Журнальный клуб Интелрос » Неприкосновенный запас » №2, 2014


The 94th NZ issue has, in a sense, a single topic, “Systems and Their Maintenance”. Although it deals with a wide range of different systems (each understood in different ways), such as political, social, ideological, urban maintenance systems, it is their common features – how different elements, parts and phenomena combine, work and relate to other elements – that most of issue 94 focuses on. Another theme touched upon here is, of course, reflection upon these systems. It should also be noted that our perception often becomes part of the object of reflection.

There are three topical sections in the new issue. The first («Looking for a New Owner»: Power and Successors”) deals with various power systems that imply self-reproduction, particularly, in the form of the so-called «successors» to present-day rulers – an issue especially acute for authoritarian and totalitarian regimes. There are two articles on the subject of «succession» in the context of Russia: Konstantin Sulimov considers the problem on a federal level, while Anastasia Gulyaeva analyses the mechanism on a regional one. A Latin American version of the same mechanism is examined in an article by Nadezhda Borisova and Galina Danilova, while Petr Panov's mini-study, “Practices of Changing Leaders in the Countries of Black Africa”, deals with its African variety, somewhat more radical as the mechanism is less well adjusted there.

This selection is complemented by two pieces from other sections of the issue. In his regular column (Political Imaginary) Alexander Kustarev talks about the recent Ukrainian crisis – with all its international implications – as resulting from self-reproduction typical of the archaic state model, as well as the fact that the structure of a certain type of post-Soviet society has not been properly understood. In fact, Kustarev discusses the necessity of creating a system that would succeed today's regimes, both in the post-Soviet space and in other unstable states worldwide.

Another section, Political Theory and Depoliticisation Practices, contains a translated chapter from “Democratic Legitimacy: Impartiality, Reflexivity, Proximity”, a 2008 book by the prominent French political philosopher Pierre Rosanvallon. This chapter, titled “The Politics of Presence”, talks of the mechanisms of traditional representative democracy being increasingly corroded under the influence of new elements linked to affective (bodily) intimacy between “the people” and the national leader figure.

Another variety of systems discussed in this issue includes mechanisms by which “the authorities” and “the intellectual” (or “the intelligentsia”, “art activists”, etc.) relate to each other. What is considered here is not only the critical attitude to the authorities characteristic of a community that seems to be doomed for critical reflection, but also the ways in which the intellectual, “the creator of meanings”, “collaborates” with the authorities, providing, among other things, ideological services. The latter case is considered in Andreas Umland's article “New Extreme Right-Wing Intellectual Circles in Russia: The Anti-Orange Committee, the Isborsk Club and the Florian Geyer Club” (Culture of Politics). As for the critically inclined art section of the intellectual community, its prospects are analysed by Alek D. Epstein and Dmitry Porotikov in an article with a somewhat grave title, “Nails in the Coffin: Does Art Activism Have Any Prospects in Russia?” (Politics of Culture).

A selection of articles included in another topical section, “The Powerless People: Intellectuals' Activism”, is also worth mentioning. Among its pieces is an essay by the American philosopher and essayist Charles Wright Mills (1916–1962), “The Powerless People. The Role of the Intellectual in Society”, written in 1944 but still extremely timely, published in Russian for the first time. Ilya Matveev's article “Charles Wright Mills: The Public Intellectual's Dilemma” provides some background for the essay and analyses the author's own stance and the evolution of his thought.

The third topical section (“Under the Paving Stones, Pipes Rather Than the Beach: How a Modern City Is Made”) focuses on systems that maintain the life and development of modern cities. This is not only (sometimes even not so much) a technological question, but also a political, economic, social and cultural one, which can be reflected upon in a purely philosophical way. The first of the three pieces in this section, an article by the classics of contemporary urbanism Stephen Graham and Nigel Thrift, “Out of Order. Understanding Repair and Maintenance”, raises the problem of maintaining and repairing urban systems on all the above levels. Elena Trubina examines political and social meanings of urban systems as a modernity problem in her study which talks, in particular, about links between present-day Russia's urban systems and political and ideological guideposts used by the authorities and society. The Irish philosopher and writer Karl Whitney offers an essay on the history and current state of Dublin's drainage system (“Down the Drain of Modernity: Where City Meets Countryside”).

There are also a number of separate stories in this issue, related to the subject of systems only in an indirect way. Case Study contains an article by one of the NZ editors, Andrey Zakharov, “«А Universal Failure»? Federalism, Democracy and Authoritarianism in Latin America”. NZ regular columns include pieces by Alexey Levinson (Sociological Lyrics) and Kirill Kobrin (Old World Chronicles). The issue traditionally concludes with the New Books section.

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