Statistics, Social Science, and Social Justice: The Zemstvo Statisticians of Pre-Revolutionary Russia

  • Esther Kingston-Mann


Ever since the eighteenth century, the ideals of the Enlightenment inspired educated people the world over to believe not only that human beings could by their own efforts discover the universal laws and scientific principles that govern human and nonhuman behavior, but to assume as well that the pursuit of scientific knowledge would serve the cause of justice. That Enlightenment universals and scientific knowledge could be deployed to support unjust causes, or to reinforce a variety of despotisms and oppressions was inconceivable to the philosophes, and a vexed question for later proponents of radical and revolutionary change. On the other hand, there have always been plenty of scholars and policy-makers for whom Enlightenment universals and scientific knowledge provided a welcome promise of stability, order, and incremental change within quite undemocratic and economically polarized societies. So, from the outset, the “social sciences of humanity” occupied contested terrain.


Statistical Bureau Peasant Household Moscow Province Peasant Commune Peasant Economy 
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© Susan P. McCaffray and Michael Melancon 2005

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  • Esther Kingston-Mann

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