Summary - Метаморфозы власти. Опыты по микроистории: философские аспекты
Metamorphoses of Power: Essays in the Philosophical Aspects of Microhistory is a monograph that represents the selected writings of Sergei Korolev (1950–2016), a gifted philosopher, historian and journalist. Alongside with the works that saw the light in Korolev’s lifetime, such as Denunciation in Russia (1996), The Endless Extent: Geo- and Sociographic Images of Power in Russia (1997) and The Conﬂict of Colonization Projects: Power in Russia and the Emergence of Independent Social Spaces (2001), the present volume comprises the preparatory materials for a comprehensive study which, if completed, would bear the title Power, with no Blank Spaces..., as well as some of the ﬁnest among his journal papers. Assembled together, these texts give evidence of an all-embracing project of a philosophy of history, elaborated by the late author since 1990s.
The originality of Korolev’s approach lies in his readiness to employ the newest philosophical theories in the analysis of microprocesses in both ancient and modern history. The central philosophical guide of Korolev’s studies is Michel Foucault. Across a wide range of facts, he demonstrates that the Foucaultian understanding of power as a general tendency of distribution of the relations of domination in society is invariably applicable to researching diverse periods of Russian history.
The problems Korolev regards as having the greatest importance for his line of inquiry are: method in the study of history, pseudomorphosis, power (both on micro- and macrolevel), discipline, disciplinary space, and disciplinary technologies; in his work, these issues attain a fully developed form. The author, unfortunately, did not live to achieve the same deﬁnitive conceptual clarity for the notions corresponding to some other major problems, like modernization, geopolitics of territory, colonization.
An undeniable quality about Korolev’s inquiry into the local historical phenomena is his scrupulous treatment of facts. After examining the enormous amount of data he collected, Korolev singles out the fundamental power microstructures which are endowed with autonomous existence over the long periods of macrohistory. Such microstructures, however, cannot be reduced, according to his view, to global power technologies that inform society as a whole. Across the entire history of Russia, Korolev points to the examples of this sort of ‘microcosms’, or ‘micro-communities’, such as domostroi (family tyranny), sopas (voluntary return of the serf to the master), tsuk (pre- revolutionary word for bullying), Children’s Detention Centre (Anton Makarenko), Young Pioneer camp, the Stalin Kolkhoz, obshezhitiye (hall of residence, or dormitory), donos (denunciation), etc.
In developing his version of microhistory, Korolev aims at exposing the actions of power on the level of empirically observable phenomena which invariably remain dominant over the entire history of Russia as something rooted in the very spirit of national life. To take, e.g., the phenomenon of denunciation, he shows how tediously changeless and nonetheless efficient has always been denunciatory attitude in Russian life despite new shades of colour brought about by changing historical context. The mutual interest between the snitcher and the authorities never ceases: the denunciator attempts to inﬂuence the authorities and even to manipulate them through his denunciations, whereas the authorities, on the other hand, invite snitching as something which enhances the secrecy surrounding the process of decision-making.
Nearly every time Korolev plunges into Russian history, he touches upon the problem of the type the Russian civilization belongs to. He reveals that the very foundations of Russian culture and statehood rest on what he deﬁnes as a pseudomorphotic relation, where over the autochtonous realities of Russian life there is superimposed a totally extraneous sociocultural shell, an alien experience, and that in a distorted, incomplete and lifeless form, downgraded to myth, grotesque farce or ritual. Such shells do not necessarily happen to be of an European imprint, and throughout the history of Russia there has been ample place for the Asian (the Golden Horde’s yoke) as well as the anti-Western (Soviet) kind of pseudomorphosis. “Pseudomorphosis is the kernel of Russian culture, and it is also the essence of the ﬁnal cycle of Russian history evolving before our eyes” – this is the conclusion Korolev draws from his reﬂections.
The Appendix contains transcripts of conversations the author had with Alexei Kara-Murza and Valery Podoroga in 1990ies. The volume closes with a Photographic archive which contains the photos taken, and arranged in groups, by Sergei Korolev himself, as well as a striking collection of images from the heart of everyday life in postSoviet Russia.