Consider a model of human behavior that purports to be an accurate representation of reality. When actual behavior fails to live up to that representation, the model’s proponents may alter their views – or react with scorn and engage in social engineering. The idea of Soviet Man was one such model; the idea of homo oeconomicus is another. In many formerly socialist countries, the ideal of a rational individual in pursuit of his or her self-interest has been imposed in ways that bear some similarity to earlier attempts at forging a socialist national collective. The results include forced autonomization, anomie, and a reversal of the public-private distinction that forces people to downplay their social ties when interacting in a formal setting.
Mischa Gabowitsch is researcher at the Einstein Forum. Born in Moscow in 1977, he holds a B.A. from Oxford University and a Ph.D. in Contemporary History and Area Studies from the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris. He was the first Albert Einstein Fellow at the Einstein Forum and, from 2007 to 2010, a Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow and Lecturer in Sociology at Princeton University’s Society of Fellows in Liberal Arts. His doctoral dissertation (written in French) was entitled The Specter of Fascism: Russian Nationalism and its Opponents, 1987–2007. From 2002 to 2006, he edited a Moscow-based journal entitled Neprikosnovenny zapas: Debates on Politics and Culture. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of Laboratorium: Russian Review of Social Research and remains on its advisory board. He is the author of Putin kaputt!? Russlands neue Protestkultur (2013), the first scholarly monograph on the 2011 Russian protest movement, and the editor of a collection of articles in Russian titled The Memory of the War 60 Years Later: Russia, Germany, Europe (2005).