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  • From the Editors:Journées d’études internationales

The "human sciences," which encompass the social sciences and humanities, are a category that allows for consideration of disciplines frequently separated in today's scholarly landscape. Historically, they very much belong together; the human sciences can be defined at their origins as the "science whose subject is 'man.'" In this sense, their roots can be located in early modern Europe, where after 1600 there emerged a "substantial and profound literature on the subject 'man,' a subject that was later studied in ways driven primarily by a secular rather than a theological interest."1 But in Western and Central Europe, the great period of ferment and disciplinary formation—what Reinhard Koselleck called the Sattelzeit, or period of makeover and accelerated change—came in the decades on either side of 1800. In European history, then, the "epistemic shifts" of the period 1750–1850 constituted a "great intellectual transformation" that marked the transition from general frameworks such as natural law and moral philosophy to modern disciplines like economics and anthropology.2 Yet Russia's own Sattelzeit, of course, came significantly later, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: it was made possible by the rapid growth of the academic intelligentsia and intensive European exchange ushered in by the Great Reforms. Indeed, this is one reason the chronological emphasis of the current special issue of Kritika lies precisely here.

To say that the history of the human sciences in Russia is intimately connected with the classic question of Russia's relationship with Europe is only to gesture at the most general parameters of the issue. As in so many other areas, [End Page 1] everything depends on how we decide to grapple with the old problem of "Russia and the West" in our approach to this history. As the human sciences flourished in late imperial Russia in the wake of Europe's earlier period of intensive transformation—or, to put it another way, as Russia internationalized in the age of nationalism—it was in this realm, as in others, demonstrably part of Europe yet also visibly separated from it. In the human sciences, as with the earlier emergence of a Westernized Russian high culture, a phase of imitative assimilation was followed by a period of intricate interaction with Europe at the time when Russia's contribution to world scholarship became rich and original and was then followed by another great parting of ways during the Soviet period (yet, it is crucial to note, within a continuing, if frequently subtle and greatly fluctuating experience of international interaction). This is a picture hauntingly familiar from other parts of the historical canvas. Russia's perennial game of transformation and belated yet intensive catch-up has provoked some of the most challenging and thought-provoking historical conceptions in the field—such as Alexander Gerschenkron's "advantages of backwardness," Marc Raeff's "well-ordered police state," Alfred Rieber's "sedimentary society," Martin Malia's "East–West cultural gradient," and Laura Engelstein's "combined underdevelopment."3

The conceptual dividends reaped from this complicated historical pattern, however, have been decisively more modest in the history of the human sciences. Most frequently, in general histories of the human sciences, Russia (albeit not always a handful of Russian scholarly pioneers) is simply ignored and omitted.4 Within the field, the international dimensions of the history of the human sciences in Russia have too often been treated as a one-way street: Western influence on Russia. For example, Alexander Vucinich's classic, pioneering Social Thought in Tsarist Russia began with a discussion of West European influence on Russian sociological thought during the Great Reforms and after, focusing especially on translations of influential works. [End Page 2] But the focus of the study itself was squarely on distinguishing a distinct and internal Russian pattern—how ideology, morality, and revolutionary politics, all preoccupations of the Russian intelligentsia, were intertwined with the rise of sociological thought.5 The concern with Russian difference is legitimate and valuable; it is, in fact, a major facet of the contributions to this number of Kritika. But a different light is shed when international interactions are placed at the center of attention. In...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-5000
Print ISSN
1531-023x
Pages
pp. 1-7
Launched on MUSE
2008-03-10
Open Access
No
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