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Post-Soviet Social

“Collier’s treatment of Russia’s neoliberal experience in Post-Soviet Social is a subtle and empirically grounded conceptual discussion of neoliberalism that invigorates a debate that has became rather stale. Rather than take the easy path of accepting neoliberalism as a coherent doctrine backed by corporate interests to gut the state, Collier borrows from Foucault’s methodological orientations and paints a much more complex and convincing picture of neoliberalism in practice, with all of its contradictions and compromises on full display….Without a doubt, the debate about neoliberalism has been highly politicized, divorced from its intellectual roots, and stripped of empirical analysis in recent years. Collier’s work provides just the right approach to advance the discussion.” Timothy Frye (2012) Journal of Interdisciplinary History 43(2): 320-321.

The Soviet Union created a unique form of urban modernity, developing institutions of social provisioning for hundreds of millions of people in small and medium-sized industrial cities spread across a vast territory. After the collapse of socialism these institutions were profoundly shaken–casualties, in the eyes of many observers, of market-oriented reforms associated with neoliberalism and the Washington Consensus. Post-Soviet Social examines reform in Russia beyond the Washington Consensus. It turns attention from the noisy battles over stabilization and privatization during the 1990s to subsequent reforms that grapple with the mundane details of pipes, wires, bureaucratic routines, and budgetary formulas that made up the Soviet social state.

Drawing on Michel Foucault’s lectures from the late 1970s, Post-Soviet Social uses the Russian case to examine neoliberalism as a central form of political rationality in contemporary societies. The book’s basic finding–that neoliberal reforms provide a justification for redistribution and social welfare, and may work to preserve the norms and forms of social modernity–lays the groundwork for a critical revision of conventional understandings of these topics.

The Introduction to Post-Soviet Social is available for free from Princeton University Press. Sean Guillory of the New Books Network conducted an interview with me about the book (audio file here).

Reviews and other Commentary:

  • Claudia Aradau has a review in Radical Philosophy that examines Post-Soviet Social along with some other books that address “What’s Left of Biopolitics.”