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The Dictatorship of Reason: Aleksandr Vol'Pin and the Idea of Rights under "Developed Socialism"

Benjamin Nathans
Slavic Review
Vol. 66, No. 4 (Winter, 2007), pp. 630-663
DOI: 10.2307/20060376
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20060376
Page Count: 34
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The Dictatorship of Reason: Aleksandr Vol'Pin and the Idea of Rights under "Developed Socialism"
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Abstract

The Soviet mathematical logician Aleksandr Vol'pin is often credited with introducing the post-Stalin dissident strategy of attempting to hold the Soviet government to its own laws. In this article, Benjamin Nathans asks how Vol'pin himself arrived at the deceptively familiar rhetoric of civil rights and rule of law and how that rhetoric functioned in emerging dissident circles in the 1960s. Rather than approaching rights through classic liberal notions of social contract and self-interest, Vol'pin drew on the strikingly cosmopolitan and interdisciplinary ferment of Soviet intellectual life during the thaw years, putting logic, philosophy of language, and the burgeoning field of cybernetics to unexpected purposes. The result, Nathans suggests, was a counterintuitive blend of idealism and literalism that became an indispensable element of dissident thought and practice within late Soviet culture.

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