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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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Techno-Utopian Visions of Soviet Intellectuals after Stalin

Techno-Utopian Visions of Soviet Intellectuals after Stalin

(p.19) Chapter 1 Techno-Utopian Visions of Soviet Intellectuals after Stalin
The Things of Life

Alexey Golubev

Cornell University Press

This chapter explores the link between material objects and the different temporalities of post-Stalinist Soviet society. The chapter looks at the productivist language of late socialism as a discursive framework that inspired and produced Soviet elemental materialism and was itself inspired and reproduced by it. Productivist language linked a vision of the grand Soviet future with technological objects and sought a rational social organization along industrial production and scientific progress. It abducted the imagery of Soviet factories, machines, vehicles, and space rockets, immersed it into the hermetic space of visual and textual representations, and used it to define, for the Soviet symbolic order, the position of the USSR at the cutting edge of technological progress. In this discourse, technologies and technological objects secured the possession of the present and future of human history for Soviet society, as well as ensured the superiority of the USSR in its competition with the Western bloc. The perceived might and transformative agency of Soviet technological objects made them affective for the Soviet public, and they became translated into distinctive discursive practices — vernaculars of the Soviet Techno-Utopianism — that sought to transform the Soviet material world but instead represented rigorous forms of self-making. In addition to affect and its politics, the chapter introduces several other key themes that are discussed in the following chapters, including the idea of making oneself by making things, which Soviet educators and ideologists understood in terms of the development of creativity, and the performativity of objects.

Keywords:   post-Stalin, post-Stalinist Soviet society, productivist, late socialism, elemental materialism, Soviet factories, material objects, USSR, Soviet symbolic order

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