By Stephen White, Alex Pravda, Zvi Gitelman (eds.)
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Additional info for Developments in Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics
The crucial question raised by reformers was that of trust: How much could Soviet society be trusted? If the society was filled with latent hostility towards the political regime, then pervasive, authoritarian control of society was a prerequisite for stability, and detailed bureaucratic direction was necessary to guide the activity of Soviet citizens towards the achievement of desirable goals. But if, as Gorbachev believed even more firmly than Khrushchev, several decades of the experience of a singleparty political system and a centrally planned economy had inculcated basic Leninist values in the overwhelming majority of Soviet citizens, then the costs of excessive regimentation of citizens' activities need not be paid.
For a stable, selfsustaining pluralist system, however, there are still further requirements. One of these, according to an old but still instructive literature, is an identification with democratic institutions in themselves, quite apart from any material benefits they may provide (see Almond and Verba, 1960). Another, according to a newer literature that has itself been heavily influenced by the experience of communist rule in Eastern Europe, is a civil society: in other words, a network of autonomous and self-regulating civic associations of various kinds, from political clubs to sporting societies and church groups (see for instance Keane, 1988).
It might be said that he did not anticipate the full truth of that prediction. During 1988, 1989 and early 1990, Gorbachev's theoretical position became progressively more radical, though his stance in manoeuvring for political support took numerous twists and turns, and the degree of his effort to implement radical reform in Soviet political and economic structures was inconsistent. As might well be imagined, inconsistency between his programmatic declarations and the policies which he endorsed damaged his credibility in the eyes of the Soviet population, with consequences which are spelled out fully in other chapters of this volume.
Developments in Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics by Stephen White, Alex Pravda, Zvi Gitelman (eds.)