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Authority in Modern Russia Through the Prism of Symbols of Postmodern

Authority in Modern Russia Through the Prism of Symbols of Postmodern
Balayan Alexander 04.10.2006

«Each other reflect mirrors

Distorting images …»


Between modernist style and stage X there’s a period of postmodern. This term is used as the widest concept for the description of qualitatively new stage of social development which follows the modernist style which is exhausted, in opinion of theorists of postmodern, historical potential, i.e. this original system of values of a postindustrial or information society.

Criticism of rationalism, consistency, subject, scientism, progress, industrialism are characteristic for postmodern. Characteristics of postmodern are usually built on the basis of opposition to the basic characteristics of a modernist style.

However, the definition of this concept is still disputable in the West. It is considered that postmodern distinguishes a set of features which can be divided into four groups - social, cultural, economic and political. In Russia this stage coincided with the strongest sociopolitical crisis - disintegration of the USSR together with which a certain superidea of existence sunk into nothing.

New country appeared had to study anew a lot. It was necessary to restore political, economic and social institutes, to define vectors of development of the country that, certainly influenced the change of structure of values of the society. All those multivariate processes were caused by a deep degree of social-economic and political uncertainty of the 90th years led to a modern political reality.

It is accepted to allocate some symbols describing the period of postmodern. Practically all these symbols are in U.Eko's well-known book "Name of Rose". From the core, allocated groups of symbols we shall stop on four: Rose, Labyrinth, Mirrors staying one opposite the other, Clown going on a rope.

These symbols reflect full enough those metamorphosises which took place in the 90th years and led to the establishment of a modern mode in Russia. Abstracting from its character, we shall try to give it estimation through each symbol of a postmodern.

1. Symbol of Rose. The rose is a kingly flower, "a bottomless source of lyrics" and a symbol of love. Not that in transitions of a labyrinth, it is not crossed, there is no way out from postmodernist labyrinth. In postmodernism this bright flower turns to a symbol of uncertainty, it is impossible to define color, smell, everything’s fluid, there is no stability. To carry it on political life of Russia this symbol personifies absence of bright political leaders (both in authority and in opposition), authority is dull, average - "without smell, without color". The more insignificant, the more successful. It is shown in appearance, language and decisions taken. In the epoch of postmodern, as one of its theorists Bauman noticed fairly, the state joined the dead god having refused to set ethical standards. "Authorities arise from nowhere so that having seized a moment of trust imperceptibly disappear in nowhere – there is nobody to ask from". From the very beginning of its existence (2000) it was difficult enough to define unequivocally ideology of a new mode as the authority used various slogans both right and left, it was spoken both about social state and about renewal of empire having best features of the USSR. Later quite strange regime established itself where liberal receptions in economy, authoritative methods in internal policy and imperial ambitions in external one are used. The president says what everyone wants to hear, frequently absolutely opposite things: for some he is liberal, for others - conservative, for the third communist. All this is characteristic practically for all representatives of imperious elite of the country. In foreign policy Russia positions itself as a friend to the West and at the same time as a friend to the East, to the USA as well as Iran and China. While in internal policy antiamericanism and anti-Westernism is openly propagandized. Modern mode postulates struggle against oligarchy but at the same time it supports a lot of oligarchs calling them fair businessmen; speaks about struggle against terrorism but simultaneously supports Kadyrov's clan in the Chechen Republic. It is possible to draw here a lot of similar examples and all of them confirm uncertainty of a present mode. These tendencies appeared not at once but accrued starting from 2000-2006. Less public resonance it arose, more normal it became.

2. Labyrinth. It is a symbol of complexity, randomness, ambiguity of an output. To carry it on political life of modern Russia the labyrinth symbolizes the bureaucratic apparatus and its inefficient activity. Borches's parable "Two tsars, two labyrinthes" is recollected. Each tsar has his own labyrinth, one has it made of bronze with set of walls and transitions, the other has a desert … It is possible to add that the third tsar has a labyrinth made of his own bureaucratic apparatus in which all his subordinates are tangled and eventually he tangled himself. In the bureaucratic organization any action is directed not on object, not on the purpose but on following to the rules and is subordinated to procedural rationality, means should get out according to the purposes and the most serious mistake - inefficient use of resources. One of the main tasks put in 2000 by the new country leaders was construction of a so-called vertical of authority – a powerful bureaucratic system which task would become simplification of management of the huge state. To announce such measures as debureaucratization (reducing the number of officials and simultaneous increase of efficiency of functioning of the state machinery) and deconcentration (redistribution of powers of authority branches for the increase of an overall performance) for what purpose the whole number of reforms on construction of effective, from the point of view of authority, system were carried out (such as reform of the Federal Council, appearance of federal districts and institutions of embassies, introduction of agencies, etc). But on practice it appeared to be not such a simple task and the initial postulated aim was found out non-executed on practice. All the reforms mentioned resulted not only in the way they should but on the contrary confused political system of the country from the point of view of efficiency and clearness. Moreover, some structures as it appeared had decorative character as soon as they duplicated already existing or their functions were absolutely not clear. Not having finished one undertaking the authority passes to the other branch of a labyrinth - from increase of gross national product to national projects, from artificial creation of a civil society to not less artificial party development. All it occurs on a background of silence of authority which, such is an impression, does not understand what is necessary as an end result. Together with feeling of apathy and alarm there is a break of a low level of interaction with authority which characterizes current period as a result of which is a growth of distrust to the formal political institutes, increase of a number of conflicts in all spheres of society life. This phenomenon is characteristic of postmodern: from one point of view there is an approaching of bureaucracy to the limits of its efficiency, from the other – an approaching to mass antagonism.

3. Mirrors facing each other. Are considered as a symbol of pluralisation of mutual reflections that leads to the loss of the referent which is reflected a mirror. We live in conditions when all feigns all and it is not clear where the world is a true one and where reflected. One of the features of political authority of postmodern is almost full merge with mass-media or "the fourth authority" (in other words the authority merges with authority). It is quite clear why one of the first steps of a new mode was total control over mass-media (especially over television) as the main conductor of new ideology. TV broadcast is the major attribute of postmodern as it plays a key role. It is enough switch on TV-set to see in a mirror of the screen a dissolved reality and simultaneously newly born representing a mosaic texture of various texts, images, emotions which mission is – not to reflect but only to show, in which everyone finds something attractive for himself, we see “now we see through the mirror, not distinctly…”. TV channels openly simulate reality showing in favourable light that is necessary for the authority, at that like in the best traditions of Orwell the reality is substituted by fiction and vice versa. That is what Baudrilard meant saying that mass-media creates images and simulators easily becoming reality. Later he named it hyperreality which frequently appears to be more real than reality. As such "reality" is much easier for operating, the desire of the mode to limit any other sources of information. Such system bears in itself two serious problems: firstly, it is danger to the population of the country as, having lost a feeling of reality, they will be manageable. Secondly, this system bears danger to authority as, having built such system, it ceases to understand where the reality is. As a result management efficiency in the country decreases that can lead to serious crisis both in economic and in sociopolitical life. And, as well as with a mirror, we cannot carry on dialogue with reflection, i.e. with authority, the last simply does not notice the referent. The authority and society as though live in different realities and for the society there is one authority, while for authority there’s different society. As a result authority turns to the closed system with practically zero coefficient of updating.

4. A symbol of the clown going on a rope. This symbol can be expressed by the following thesis: So that to be stable in the modern world is necessary to be unstable. Self-preservation of political system is one of the main tasks of any authority and it’s much easier to achieve it in conditions of simulating of a reality. Political mode of modern Russia, despite of assurances of the authority, is extremely unstable in many aspects (economic, sociopolitical, religious, etc). But though it looks paradoxical the modern authority itself aspires to be unstable through the display of negative sociopolitical phantoms. It depends not so much on the system but from the reality built by it in which a huge threat proceeds from opposition which hates Russia, from international terrorism, the West and etc. That is the purpose of the given instability is to show the only possible scenario of the development of system after 2008, i.e. saving of the existing order of things. The guarantor of stability in these conditions is the person of the president constraining all these negative processes. As a result in modern political mode seeming balance in practice appears to system instability inspired system itself. Uncertainty in tomorrow, political instability gives rise to motivational need for predictability.

Therefore in modern Russia the so-called "authoritative reflex" can be distinctly seen, in two forms:

1. In the form of denying of everything new, everything positive, upholding of infallibility of old, habitual models or own positions;

2. In the form of obsequious worship before the leader hoping for safety, preservation of authority and incomes. But simultaneously in a society such values of postmodern as the process of falling of respect for authority, to the bureaucratic apparatus and strengthening of activity of individuals, aspiration to self-expression are shown. It is that tendency which will undermine an authoritative reflex and can lead to democratization of political processes. It, somehow, will complicate a life of political elite.

Another meaning of clown on a rope is irony to oneself and to life as an effective way to be pulled out from the fetters of postmodernist system of total simulation. It is impossible to be serious, otherwise you will not stay on a rope. The irony should be understood as especially personal, individual practice - that is what Fuko called "technique of oneself", "care of oneself". Only having armed with irony is possible to live in a space of simulation and not to turn out into simulacra. The irony to oneself and life is a kind of protection from that “reality” that are around us.

Balayan Alexander. Political Scientist of Center of political analyses and forecast «Tsenturion»
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