HOW THE SOVIET UNION IS GOVERNED by ferry F. & Merle Fainsod Hough
Kirkus Star

HOW THE SOVIET UNION IS GOVERNED

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Merle Fainsod, one of Harvard's famous stable of Soviet experts, wrote his widely read How Russia is Ruled in 1953 and revised it slightly in 1963. Fainsod died in 1972, and now a former student has completely rewritten and enlarged his basic work. As the title suggests, the result is more than a new edition; it is an entirely new book. Fainsod's work was a product of its times, and its times were those of the Cold War. Although more nuanced than most, Fainsod's book was a shot in that war--his basic perspective was that Bolshevism, arising in the epoch of Czarist absolutism, acquired an authoritarian caste which shaped the system of domination established by the Bolsheviks after their coup (as he saw it) of October 1917. Although he was sensitive to divisions within the Soviet hierarchy and between bureaucratic bodies--a sensitivity which Hough extends--Fainsod stressed the unity of the Bolsheviks under Lenin and his book abounded in terms like ""authoritarian"" and the then fashionable ""totalitarian."" Hough's reworking represents a new epoch ushered in by many first-rate scholarly studies and a more complex perspective. He has rearranged the material into separate historical and analytic sections, the latter focusing on policy processes. Agreeing with Fainsod that the Bolsheviks exemplified the Russia of their youth, he puts them in a fuller historical context in which social forces, not calculating individuals, rise to the fore. In Hough's view, the Revolution was a process stretching from February 1917 to the end of the civil war in 1921, and it was this process which shaped the institutions of governance in the Soviet Union. In shifting from ""ruled"" to ""governed,"" Hough has shifted from a conspiracy theory to a social perspective, and, though he retains some of Fainsod's original words, he has altered the intemperate tone. He has also extended considerably the material dealing with policy processes, bringing interest-group and conflict models to bear which yield, as of the present, a more accurate picture of a layered and non-monolithic system of governance. An excellent introduction on both historical and analytical levels--not only a new book, but a better one.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press