This chapter considers Soviet society before 1985, examining in turn officially organized ‘voluntary work’; public lobbying of official agencies; and independent self-help groups. The chapter continues discussions begun in Chapters 1 and 2. Taking first the issue of whether the system was in crisis by 1985, it is useful to examine the related question of whether there was a crisis located in social behaviour and attitudes (as opposed to social policy and its absence, which was the main focus of Chapter 2). In other words, the focus shifts from the behaviour of the party-state to that of the public. Was the Soviet system failing to work because public participation in making it work was increasingly lacking — as the above quotation from Gorbachev suggests? If Soviet people were failing to behave in system-supportive fashion, this represented a problem for the ruling elite. Both conservative ideologists and radicals like Gorbachev and Zaslavskaya were concerned about social alienation and considered ‘the human factor’ to constitute a fundamental part of the overall crisis.2 On the other hand, if ‘exit’ from the official structures led to the creation of genuinely independent organizations before 1985, these could be considered to lay the way for the mobilization of society which Gorbachev hoped to achieve and of which the creation of an independent voluntary sector would form a part. Referring back to the debates discussed in Chapter 1, Chapter 3 will show how an embryonic civil society existed even before 1985, in the form of independent organizations of various kinds, and a press which helped disabled people in their struggle against Minsobes. (The same newspapers would be the main motors of glasnost under Gorbachev.)


Disable People Voluntary Work Sport Club Voluntary Organization Residential Home 
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  1. 1.
    Gorbachev (1987), p. 24.Google Scholar
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    Kuebart, F., ‘The political socialisation of schoolchildren’, in Riordan (ed.) (1989) p. 107.Google Scholar
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    Ryan (1978) p. 20.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Anne White 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne White
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BathUK

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