In his reflection on the issues raised in Mark Lipovetsky's essay, Maxim Waldstein expresses his overall solidarity with Lipovetsky's genealogy of the current discourse of the Russian intellectual establishment and proposes a sketch of his own contribution to this project: the study of the antinomies of intellectual nonconformism and cultural conservatism in the works of the Tartu semioticians and Sergei Averintsev. Furthermore, based on his critical assessment of Lipovetsky's methodology, Waldstein proposes a strategy for how the dialogic interrogation of the key assumptions of contemporary Russian (liberal) mainstream may proceed. Waldstein agrees with Lipovetsky that the currently dominant intellectual discourse in Russia, even as represented by politically liberal intellectuals, is often plagued by ingrained elitism, xenophobia, and cultural conservatism. In part, this observation accounts for widespread suspiciousness toward Western trends such as feminism and for the inability of the Russian "liberal mainstream" to resist currently rising official neotraditionalism. Historically, this discourse goes back not only to the scientific modernism of the 1960s ITR intellectuals, which is Lipovetsky's prime focus, but also to the cult of (high) culture, professed by iconic late Soviet humanists such as Yuri Lotman and Sergei Averintsev. Originally (and tacitly) aimed at protecting cultural and intellectual creativity from the Soviet state's encroachments on its autonomy, Lotman's and Averintsev's cultural studies grew increasingly antagonistic toward the analogous intellectual trends in the West because of their alleged implications of cultural amnesia and permissiveness. As Waldstein shows by analyzing Lotman's and Averintsev's reflections on the nature of (artistic) play and humor, these authors combined the conservative rejection of any transgression with respect to the culturally normative and the cult of transgression in "high art," classical literature, the artist's personal self-fashioning or antitotalitarian humor. Originally embedded in the social strategies of intellectual and personal self-fashioning under the totalitarian regime, this intellectual position has outlived the Soviet regime and continues to serve as a paradigm for the contemporary liberal mainstream, but has lost much of its nonconformist and antiauthoritarian potential. In the context of today's Russia, this perspective implies limiting playful and humoristic creativity to the enclosed social enclaves of the intellectuals' inner circle while leaving the public sphere to official neotraditionalism.
In his critical assessment of Lipovetsky's project, Waldstein points to its residual essentialism and teleology. In addition to traditional genealogy, or the search for roots and origins, he advocates more consistently embracing the Foucauldian project of "genealogy," aimed at fragmenting the unified and discovering heterogeneity in what seems to be consistent with itself. In practice, this means not only engaging seriously with the late twentieth-century Western reflexivity toward the project of the Enlightenment but also recovering and bringing into the conversations the "native" critical resources. As examples of such resources, Waldstein cites the less understood and valued ideas of Yuri Lotman. The expected outcome of such engagements is the renegotiation of the key assumptions of Russia's current academic and intellectual discourse and reinvigoration of the public dialogue.