Renovating Russia: The Human Sciences and the Fate of Liberal Modernity, 1880-1930 by Daniel BeerRenovating Russia: The Human Sciences and the Fate of Liberal Modernity, 1880-1930 by Daniel Beer

Renovating Russia: The Human Sciences and the Fate of Liberal Modernity, 1880-1930

byDaniel Beer

Hardcover | June 4, 2008

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Renovating Russia is a richly comparative investigation of late Imperial and early Soviet medico-scientific theories of moral and social disorder. Daniel Beer argues that in the late Imperial years liberal psychiatrists, psychologists, and criminologists grappled with an intractable dilemma. They sought to renovate Russia, to forge a modern enlightened society governed by the rule of law, but they feared the backwardness, irrationality, and violent potential of the Russian masses. Situating their studies of degeneration, crime, mental illness, and crowd psychology in a pan-European context, Beer shows how liberals' fears of societal catastrophe were only heightened by the effects of industrial modernization and the rise of mass politics. In the wake of the orgy of violence that swept the Empire in the 1905 Revolution, these intellectual elites increasingly put their faith in coercive programs of scientific social engineering.

Their theories survived liberalism's political defeat in 1917 and meshed with the Bolsheviks' radical project for social transformation. They came to sanction the application of violent transformative measures against entire classes, culminating in the waves of state repression that accompanied forced industrialization and collectivization. Renovating Russia thus offers a powerful revisionist challenge to established views of the fate of liberalism in the Russian Revolution.

Daniel Beer is Lecturer in Modern European History at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Title:Renovating Russia: The Human Sciences and the Fate of Liberal Modernity, 1880-1930Format:HardcoverDimensions:248 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.81 inPublished:June 4, 2008Publisher:Cornell University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0801446279

ISBN - 13:9780801446276

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Table of Contents


Chapter 1. "Morel's Children"

Chapter 2. The Etiology of Degeneration

Chapter 3. “The Flesh and Blood of Society”

Chapter 4. “Microbes of the Mind”

Chapter 5. Social Isolation and Coercive: Treatment after the Revolution


Bibliography of Primary Sources

Editorial Reviews

"This is an extraordinary book that uses the biomedical sciences to make large arguments about modern Russian history. With one eye on science and the other on politics, Daniel Beer argues that liberalism from the nineteenth century elaborated on a perception of biological deterioration in order to propose that human beings were plastic and that Russia could be revamped. The perceived threat of degeneration opened new possibilities for expert intervention, regeneration, and, ultimately, wholesale national transformation. Beer argues against the grain that the liberal mantle was carried beyond 1917 by the Bolsheviks, who appropriated liberal biomedical techniques as an approach to government. Beer furthers our understanding of Russia as a European experience, and of the USSR on a continuum of Russian and European history. With its fluid writing, Renovating Russia is a rigorous rethinking of science and politics that speaks in original and compelling ways to the historian of virtually any modern polity." - Yanni Kotsonis, New York University, author of Making Peasants Backward