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New Left Review 37, January-February 2006

Georgi Derluguian on Andrew Wilson, Virtual Politics. Techniques of political legerdemain in the former Soviet states, and the swerving trajectories of its intelligentsia practitioners.



Anyone looking for a contemporary example of the silent gravitational pull of an ideological hegemony would do well to take the political scientists and economists who, a decade and a half after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, continue to frame their inquiries into the region in terms of so many transitions to democracy and a market economy. The results are not merely odd, but often downright embarrassing. The accumulation of awkward, indeed generally dismaying, facts at variance with this conception has required the introduction of a panoply of theoretical epicycles such as ‘challenged’ or ‘stalled’ transitions, blamed on ‘legacies of the Communist past’, popular apathy, lack of civic instincts, atavistic yearnings for a ‘strong hand’ and ‘bad old habits’ of despotism and corruption. It is a more than revealing historical irony that the contemporary problems in the neoliberal project of global transformation, which Hobsbawm pointedly calls the ‘last Great Utopia of the twentieth century’, have come to resemble the discursive contradictions of its vanquished predecessor—Marxism–Leninism.

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Georgi Derluguian, ‘Machiavellis for Postmoderns’, NLR 37: £3

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