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August 2000
488 pages  

6 x 9
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From Darkness to Light
Class, Consciousness, and Salvation in Revolutionary Russia
Halfin, Igal
In this interdisciplinary and controversial work, Igal Halfin takes an original and provocative stance on Marxist theory, and attempts to break down the divisions between history, philosophy, and literary theory.

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Igal Halfin is professor of history at Tel Aviv University. He is the author or editor of From Darkness to Light: Class, Consciousness, and Salvation in Revolutionary Russia, Terror in My Soul: Communist Autobiographies on Trial, and Language and Revolution: The Making of Modern Political Identities.
From Darkness to Light will be perceived as a milestone in the scholarship of the early Soviet period and of Soviet Marxism more generally. The boldness of this book resides in its innovative combination of two scholarly approaches that have long been distinct in the context of twentieth century Russia: intellectual and social history. The result is a book that will provoke much heated discussion among scholars of early Soviet culture as well as ideology scholars working outside the Russian context. It is a fine example of how interdisciplinary work on the early Soviet period ought to be done.”—Eric Naiman, University of California at Berkeley

“Impressive in its intellectual reach and close attention to the texts and practice of Bolshevism in its early years, Halfin’s work raises challenging issues for informed readers and students of modern ideology and Russia who seek to plumb the phenomenon of Bolshevism.”---C.A. Linden, Choice, March 2001

“This is a multi-faceted and very suggestive book. . . . remarkable.” —Oleg Kharkhordin, Journal of Modern History, Sept 2002

“ . . . an important contribution. A sophisticated analysis of the pre-revolutionary and early Soviet language of class is his most impressive but not sole achievement. ‘From Darkness to light’ is a challenging read and a must for students of revolutionary Russia.”—Denis Kozlov, Canadian Slavonic Papers, March 2001

“Erudite, stimulating, and important. . . . A book that deserves to be read from cover to cover and savored. Even those who disagree with its premises and conclusions will find more than ample reward.” —Glennys Young, Slavic Review, Winter 2003

Complete Description Reviews
Pitt Series in Russian and East European Studies
Russia and East Europe/History

In conjunction with Studies of the Harriman Institute In this interdisciplinary and controversial work, Igal Halfin looks at Marxist theory in a new light, attempting to break down the divisions between history, philosophy, and literary theory. His approach is methodological, combining intellectual and social history to argue that if we are to take the Bolshevik revolutionary experiment seriously, we have to examine carefully the ideological presupposition of both communist ideological texts and the archival documents that social historians believe truly reflect lived experience in order to see what effects these texts had on reality. Igal Halfin aims to turn Marxism, class, and consciousness from subjects of analysis to its objects. From Darkness to Light begins by examining the Marxist philosophy of history as understood by the Russian revolutionary movement. Halfin argues that the Soviet government took its cues to how it could bring about a classless society from a peculiar blending of eschatological thinking and modern techniques of power. Halfin then offers a case study of the Bolshevik attempt in the 1920s to create the “Communist New Man” by amalgamating the characteristics of the intellectual and the worker in order to eradicate the petit-bourgeois traits attributed by the regime to the pre-revolutionary individualistic and decadent student. Halfin’s conclusions raise important questions about Marxist theory as it relates to class, historical progress, and communism itself. His approach suggests that “proletarianization” should be understood not as a change in the social composition of the student body, but as the introduction of the language of class into the universities. Through the examination of the process of the literary construction of class identity, Halfin concludes that the student class affiliation in the Soviet Union of the 1920s was not simply a matter of social origins, but of students’ ability, using a set of ritualized procedures, to defend their claims to a working-class identity. Halfin’s conclusions raise important questions about Marxist theory as it relates to class, historical progress, and communism itself.


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