Location: Bowdoin / Gender and Women's Studies / Redefining the Common Good After Communism / Abstracts / Nancy Ries

Gender and Women's Studies

Nancy Ries

The Moral in the Grotesque: Russian Social Imaginaries and the Postsocialist Order

Public trust in social institutions in Russia is among the lowest of any nation in the world. This profound disillusion penetrates popular discourse, congealing into a collective cynicism which both reflects and inflects social practice. Central to the image of the "bad society" are the many forms of corruption and criminality which permeate all social institutions, the juxtaposition of concentrated wealth and widespread infrastructural decay, a crisis of communal safety, and devastating demographic and public health conditions. All of these phenomena of the postsocialist condition are, of course, widely recognized and thoroughly examined, both within and beyond Russia. They form a "monumental landscape" representing social systems and public conditions - a sensus communis both grotesque and despairing. While examining these negative representations of the social world, this paper also argues that images of moral society and communal order are often conveyed through narratives about the inverse. Social cynicism is a complex rhetoric with its own generic rules and structures, but it is one which often reveals the contours of the collectively imagined good.