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Against Culturism: Reconsidering Stalin on Nation and Class

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This article argues that the key to Stalin’s early theoretical work on the national question may be read as an attack on culturism – the propensity to identify an intangible ‘culture’ (often with religious factors) as the basis for collective identity. Although his criticism is directed at a number of social democratic organisations at the turn of the twentieth century, it also has pertinence for today due to the persistence of culturist assumptions. Two factors are important in his criticism. The first is to define ‘nation’ in order to sideline the culturist position, although his own definition is not without its problems. The second tackles the question of the structure of the state: does one begin with ‘national culture’ or with class? Stalin proposes that class is the determining factor, which then enables a very different approach to ‘national culture’. The unexpected result is that the unity provided by a focus on the workers and peasants produces both new levels of cultural diversity and enables a stronger approach to ensuring such diversity. The approach undertaken in this article pays careful attention to Stalin’s theoretical and philosophical arguments as they appear in his written texts.

Affiliations: 1: University of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia Renmin University of China, Beijing, China, Roland.Boer@newcastle.edu.au

10.1163/18763324-04203002
/content/journals/10.1163/18763324-04203002
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2015-10-19
2017-12-12

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