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The Things of LifeMateriality in Late Soviet Russia$
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Alexey Golubev

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501752889

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501752889.001.0001

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Elemental Materialism in Soviet Culture and Society

(p.1) Introduction
(p.iii) The Things of Life

Alexey Golubev

Cornell University Press

This chapter gives a brief history of and defines the term “elemental materialism” as a culturally rooted recognition of the power of matter and things to shape human bodies and selves, which is a prominent feature in the Soviet system of signification that regulated the production of meanings on a daily basis. The chapter raises the question on the place of elemental materialism in the ideological landscape of late socialism. It explains that a focus on things, on their ability to organize society, communities, and human bodies and selves can account for a more complex understanding of historical change in modern societies in general. The chapter discusses approaches to the study of material objects, and previous studies that have been done for body and material culture. It talks about studies done by Bronislaw Malinowski and Igor Kopytoff, Pierre Bourdieu and Daniel Miller, and Sergei Tretiakov and Viktor Shklovsky. Finally, it discusses materiality as an integral part of the study of Soviet politics.

Keywords:   elemental materialism, Soviet system, late socialism, Bronislaw Malinowski, Igor Kopytoff, Pierre Bourdieu, Daniel Miller, Sergei Tretiakov, Viktor Shklovsky, Soviet politics

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