In This Review

In Search of the True West: Culture, Economics, and Problems of Russian Development
In Search of the True West: Culture, Economics, and Problems of Russian Development
By Esther Kingston-Mann
Princeton University Press, 1999, 296 pp
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Despite the title and the inexplicable dust-jacket photo of Boris Yeltsin dancing frantically on stage during the 1996 presidential campaign, this book's subject is the Russian commune from the seventeenth century through Stalin's brutal collectivization. Kingston-Mann focuses on the currents of thought that first rationalized serfdom, then sought its improvement, eventually questioned it, and finally provided an alternative. She does not attempt to explain the forces that allowed ideas to prevail as policy at any given time. But she does stress what little regard the Russian peasantry's intellectual benefactors had for the "dark people"; the influence of progressive Western economics often produced a shallow appreciation of the Russian commune's merit. The book paints a deeply complex picture of Marxism's role in this intellectual stream -- long before Lenin and his colleagues imposed their antipeasant version.