YOUTH AND THE SYSTEM OF CULTURAL REPRODUCTION: Rethinking the Critique of Mass Culture in the Soviet Union

Sergey Yerofeyev
"In the cultural market... the matching of supply and demand is neither the simple effect of production imposing itself on consumption nor the effect of a conscious endeavor to serve the consumer' needs, but the result of the objective orchestration of two relatively independent logics, that of the fields of production and that of the field of consumption". (Bourdieu 1989: 230) "Rock, far from being a distinct form of mass culture, loses its unique, radical significance precisely in as far as it becomes mass culture..." (Frith 1978: 200)

It is hard to find a more controversial and at the same time more vague notion than `mass culture' considering the sharp debates about the fate of cultural development in the Soviet Union. Everybody realises today the fact, that there is certain danger to `human awareness' or `free spiritual enrichment' in the situation created by the `information explosion' and the attendant complication of cultural relationships. But the fear of such a danger usually fails to find any other expression but that of complaint about the `deadly grasp' of the mass media, the indifference and passivity of mass consciousness and the `aggression' of mediocrity, inferior and vulgar passions in, what is particularly important, artistic life. From the other side one can identify these fears as manifestations of the same mass consciousness superficiality, to which Soviet domestic publicists very often refer in order to stress the urgency of cultural policy changes.

Meanwhile, cultural studies in Soviet sociology are only now beginning to deal with the problems of the obvious cultural differentiation and with cultural production under the conditions of modern society. In particular, the sociological study of `rebellious youth culture' is rather problematic because of the ideological prejudice of recent domestic works criticising so-called `bourgeois mass culture', which is seen as `poisoning' young minds, and interfering with the `cultural paradise' of socialist society. The main thesis of the historical materialist analysis of mass culture in the Soviet Union is the `superiority of socialist culture' and of working class interests (including the sphere of `mental production') which are equated with the interests common to all mankind. It is evidently unsatisfactory nowadays, so we cite these works (by Kukarkin, Kartzeva, Ashin and others) only from a critical point of view.

Strictly speaking, we have to begin not just from the `very beginning' but from the `way out' of the theoretical `cul-de-sac', in which we find ourselves absurdly, but, nevertheless, quite naturally. It seems to me, that scrutiny of history and of the causes of this theoretical deadlock is necessary to allow us to come back to earth from the utopian, elitist-nostalgic (but not `Adornian') heavens and to make a first step on the way towards understanding the role of youth culture (or cultures) within the process of cultural reproduction.

That is why I would like to outline certain social determinants of the development of the Soviet critique of `bourgeois mass culture', to trace the contradictory, but fairly convincing analogy between this critique's shortcomings and those of critical theory and the thesis of the dominant ideology.

Realities and abstractions: critical parallels

In evaluating the rapid changes in social life in the 20th century including the rise of new technological systems (especially in the field of mass media), social philosophy in the USSR came to the conclusion that the spread of mass information exerts opposite influences upon social consciousness and the evolution of human beings in `capitalist' and `socialist' countries. The former are condemned to suffer because of the preponderance of inhuman mass culture, whereas the latter are enjoying new opportunities of wide and fruitful individual consumption of spiritual wealth (Uledov 1980: 160; cf. Enzensberger 1970: 13-36). In this perspective mass culture is completely irrelevant to Soviet society, as was expressed by Ashin: "one who approaches the analysis of `mass culture' predominantly from the assumption about its content and social functions is compelled to deny it in the conditions of socialism" (1971: 173).

Under these conditions the main problem considered by ardent advocates of the purity of socialist ideals was the penetration of western social ideas and popular artistic values into the minds of Soviet people and, what is most important, into the minds of the younger generation. However, in rejecting the immediate availability of mass cultural phenomena in our public life they recognised the great vulnerability of Soviet youth to profanation by the violence and pornography of bourgeois pop-art and especially of rock-music, whose influence seemed almost irresistible. With the advent of the present `thaw', however, the evaluation of these troubling phenomena became more complicated. Rethinking the way in which culture was destroyed during the long period of totalitarianism our social commentators have resorted to the biblical maxim: "How can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye', when all the time there is a plank in your own?" (Matthew 7: 4)

But, nevertheless, today's admission (in the press rather than in the scientific journals) of the existence in our country of `masscult' is characterised by uncertain metaphysical tones, connected with complaints about the domination of passive stereotypes of political populism, pseudo-scientific representations and cheap artistic tastes. Yet, what is more, the maintenance of the whole complex system of wide cultural reproduction is actually reduced to a number of specific effects and most frequently to a number of aspects of popular artistic culture. Thus the favourite object of attack is again rock-music; its fundamental social roots and its role in the critical response to the same mass culture are totally ignored.

This is remarkably reminiscent of the rigidity and bitterness of critical theory, when it dealt with the problem of the `cultural industry', and the alienation of `mass man' under the conditions of monopolised control of dominant group values. Even the striving to find examples of spiritual impoverishment as evidence of cultural disaster is similar: rock is identified from the historical materialist point of view and jazz from the perspective of Adorno's distinction between high and low cultures. The resemblance of these two critical perspectives consists not only in the emotionalism in the evaluation of the new dangers generated by new technologies and in the accusation of `mercenary cultural manipulations', but, what is more important, also in the unsoundness of many of their assumptions. It follows, then, as I hope to demonstrate, that the main arguments made against critical theory during the recent development of culturological theories are analogous to the Soviet critique of `bourgeois mass culture'.

As Bell once noted, apart from Marxism, the theory of mass society was "probably the most influential theory in the western world," but it "affords us no view of the relations of the parts of the society to each other that would enable us to locate the sources of change" (1960: 21). Therefore, failing to identify the immanent laws of self-propelling socio-cultural movement, this theory makes exogenous factors (either generalised as some vague dominant values or specific such as the phenomenon of rock) responsible for any negative effects.

The rise of the critical theory was not accidental, as a number of contemporary British and American sociologists rightly argue (Swingewood 1977; Clarke 1980; Jay 1973; Hebdige 1979; Bennett 1982 and others). It rests on the attempts of many social thinkers of the 19th and 20th centuries to make sense of the process of the growing socialisation of production and the attendant tendency towards the `homogenisation' of social life (Mill, Ortega y Gasset, Nietzsche). Bennett notes the elitist implications of this "polyphony of negative and pessimistic reactions to the related processes of industrialization, urbanization, the development of political democracy, the beginnings of popular education and the emergence of contemporary forms of `mass communication'" (1982: 32).

In fact, he argues, these critical feelings of the representatives of `cultural aristocracy' of that period meant their fears "that the rule of the elite was over and the reign of the rabble about to begin unless the former could be induced to rouse itself, to turn back the tide of democracy and liberalism which threatened to engulf it" (1982: 34).

Guided by the instinct to preserve personality from authoritarian coercion and in order to represent the reverse side of the `democratic coin', Adorno tried to explain the functioning of works of art within the culture of `mass society' in terms of comparable elitism and nostalgia (Stauth and Turner 1988: 509-526). Referring to the threat hanging over the autonomy of `high culture' he indicated that as soon as works of art under conditions of mass reproduction attempt to attain their effect (that is, the suggestion of critical, and even oppositional, thinking) by accommodating themselves to prevailing `needs', they deprive men of precisely that which they could give them. From the other side, Adorno wrote about the fate of personality in the modern era with its industry of entertainment: "The man with leisure has to accept what the culture manufacturers offer him. Kant's formalism still expected a contribution from the individual, who was thought to relate the various experiences of the senses to fundamental concepts; but industry robs the individual of his function" (Adorno 1977: 352).

Similar views can be found in many papers of Horkheimer, Fromm and others, right up to Marcuse's analysis of the capitalist system of incorporation and the `political character' of technological rationality as the "great vehicle of better domination, creating a truly totalitarian universe" (1968: 18). But what is interesting, is that our sociologising press, accusing western critics of being "liberal slaves of bourgeois domination" (Kukarkin 1978), had actually completely borrowed all their arguments. One of these `loans' is the assumption about the undifferentiated `mass audience' easily giving in to dominant group control, expressed in the voluntary manufacturing of mass cultural products by `technicians hired by businessmen'. It makes the same claims in defence of `genuine democratic' culture, which was understood in both cases, as Jay (1973: 218) notes, in psychological, rather than in sociological terms. For example Terin wrote, that the consciousness of ordinary members "in the conditions of the modern state-monopolistic system is like the specific `collective unconscious' on which `mass culture' with its... vulgar categorical structure is based (1975: 134).

There are a lot of such parallels in Soviet literature, where the extreme negativism and conservatism of popular art criticism coexist with the attempts to explain somehow the persistence of the capitalist order in the West. This task is performed by means of an Althusserian approach without references to statements of the following type: "in advanced Western democracies the ideological field is by no means neutral... They [`connotative codes' of culture] thus tend to represent, in however obscure and contradictory a fashion, the interests of the dominant groups in society" (Hebdige: 1979).

Yet, apart from official journalism, historical materialism in the Soviet Union witnessed few serious analytical attempts to sum up the transformations of mass culture and mass communications theories in western countries. From this perspective Davydov's analysis of the three stages in the development of the theories of communications is of interest (1988: 97-129). However, in general one can identify in the literature two main themes, eventually ascribed to mass culture as a system by the critics of `masscult' in the Soviet Union: firstly, the `normative' function reflecting the process of uncritical socialisation of individuals and certain dissenting cultures, and, secondly, the `escapist' function, which on closer consideration represents, in fact, a tautology (Ashin and Midler 1988: 152-170).

Now I will outline some objective determinants of the genesis and development of the Soviet critique of `bourgeois mass culture', which represented an alternative reaction to the processes of social evolution during the modern epoch. Unlike western liberal conceptualisations it represented the defence not of the interests of an `aristocracy of culture', but that of the interests of the Soviet bureaucracy, i.e., using Bourdieu's language, actual `owners' of economic capital, influencing the functioning of cultural capital.

With the elimination of pre-revolution relationships of production, the `mode of appropriation' in cultural life of our country accordingly changed. But it still remained possible to speak about cultural relationships within the system of Stalinist totalitarianism in terms of either `hegemony' (Gramsci) or `repressive state apparatuses' (Althusser). Even in the period of the weakening of totalitarian pressure since the mid-1950s one could find the features of `ideological state apparatuses' as a tool of bureaucratic dominance, attended by considerable changes in the contents and methods of ideological propaganda. So it was not accidental in that period, that the establishment of its new forms required the elaboration of new arguments concerning the symbolic struggle with capitalist opponents. As mentioned above, these arguments appealed to the interests of the `vanguard' class, having also made use of the cultural contradictions of the industrial epoch, denying the relevance of the experience of the socialist camp. Now, when the main questions of social development is that of the transition from an authoritarian regime to democracy, and of apolitical and cultural pluralism, and when the political situation is characterised by an actual doubling of state power (Communist Party vs Soviets), the vulnerability of traditional criticism becomes more obvious.

"The Oblonsky household was in a complete state of confusion..." \*- this phrase from Tolstoy's `Anna Karenina' quite adequately reflects the contemporary cultural situation in the country. The exposure of what had been hidden beneath the myth of the monolithic socialist culture gave rise to often contradictory approaches to cultural policy. It is connected, I would suggest, with two major positions, which could be developed in future into paradigms against a background, which corresponds to familiar themes in the history of Russian social thought. The first one is that of nationalism (pochvennichestvo or `soilism'), related to the slavophilic tradition, and the second is that of the new westernist vision. The latter is most important for this frame of reference, because the uncritical absorption of critical theory and other approaches in the West is fairly typical for its representatives. Many of them are guided by the same assumptions as well as by remarkably superficial interpretations of youth culture.

Therefore, their constructions deserve the critical counter-arguments, which are well-known, because modern society, Soviet as well as western, "rather than creating a vast, homogeneous and culturally brutalised mass, generates different levels of taste, different audiences and consumers. Culture is stratified, its consumption differential (Swingewood 1977: 20).

As the poststructuralist approach suggests (Baudrillard 1989: 208), individuals as cultural agents are not simply the silent `mass' in terms of their passivity and alienation, since they exercise certain original effects on the apparently mosaic picture of cultural `circuitry'. So we can see cultural artefacts constantly transformed with both egalitarian and inegalitarian consequences. If there are certain oppositional groups in the sense of domination and submission, their relationship is not simple, because those `oppressed' actually to some extent adopt the culture of `superiors' as well as the latter being able to develop patterns of cultural life derived from initiatives from below. Thus the misunderstanding expressed in the disgust of rock-culture in the Soviet Union and the equation of it with the dark forces of the `masscult', and the neglect of its independent, autochthonous roots in new popular cultural creativity.

However, the `field' of this misunderstanding is quite wide; it comprises different views among present Soviet critics. First there are the `traditionalists': they strive to elaborate previous assumptions, stressing the `spoiling' role of inherent features of mass communications and forecasting imminent disaster for `High Culture', as well as increased atomisation and alienation. On the other hand, the attention paid by many progressive-minded intellectuals to the role of cultural resistance during the years of totalitarianism reflects a tendency to overestimate the power of counter-cultural forces opposed to pressure from the dominant bureaucracy and the ruling nomenklatura. In any case, it should be noted, that these two tendencies, while strongly expressed in the domestic press, are still ignored by social scientists.

Intricate assertions, substituting the complexity of cultural systems for the alleged `ubiquity of mass culture' and, mixing the the essence and functions of pop-culture and the values and language of rock (this is the problem, which I would like to consider below) are today characteristic obstacles to the shaping of cultural policy, which sociology needs to facilitate. So, the problems of the genesis and existence of new cultural, structural and symbolic elements (including a number of `subterranean' ones) require the drastic rethinking of the notion of mass culture and clarification of certain points within the framework of the general theory of culture.

Conceptualising culture

Compelled to recognise the considerable changes in the political situation inside as well as outside the country, Soviet social thought during the 1970s has tried to soften the rigidity of the thesis about the superiority of working class interests. Firstly, it attempted this by establishing as a new discipline the Marxist-Leninist theory of culture. Secondly, the concepts of base and superstructure were reintroduced in the `theory of mental production'. And, finally, there emerged new assumptions within the framework of social consciousness theory about the nature of mass consciousness. The faint recognition of the existence of global human values, appropriate to all members of all societies, was expressed in the theory of the `humanistic' function of culture having its own immanent laws of progressive evolution, on the analogy of society in general, (Arnoldov, Markaryan, Mezhuev and others). Following Marxist materialism, the rising Soviet culturology made distinctions between `material culture' and `spiritual culture' (which can be translated better into English as `mental culture', including art and education), characterised by the relations of interdependence. The role of `artistic culture' was considered within the system of spiritual culture and the functioning of artistic values was explained in terms of their determination by the class structure, deriving from material conditions and the class struggle.

However, despite this more sophisticated approach, overcoming to some degree the previous oversimplification of human nature, the culture of capitalist society even now is presented as pretending to be democratic, satisfying the interests and demands of its audience, despite the fact that "a direct class interest is pursued in this case: the mentioned demands are being formed and distributed by means of information, advertising, education in favour of the same `money bag'" (Anisimov 1988: 173).

So, the main orthodox argument is preserved: spiritual values in the realm of Soviet socialism cease to be a commodity, and the alienation of mental (`spiritual') labour has disappeared, together with the opposition between it and material labour. At the same time, the analysis of western critical theories became more complex when it was suggested, for example, that their shortcomings arose from their discussion of mass cultural phenomena on the basis of mass communication, while ignoring the differences between social groups (Kartzeva 1976). This is obviously not the case, because modern western sociology has paid quite a lot of attention to the problems of subcultures and symbolic struggle. Equally, reproaching western social science for the gap between sociology and culturology seems to be far-fetched, since the works of British and French scholars actually deal with the sociological foundations of cultural change.

However, some Soviet social philosophers have come to the conclusion, that cultural changes during the 20th century were not accidentally determined by the general process of socialisation of production: "The orientation of spiritual production towards the mass of consumers results in the specific industrialisation of spiritual labour characterised by the conveyor mode of manufacturing of spiritual products. In any way, the growth of consumer demand for spiritual production exerts a considerable effect on the technological basis of spiritual production, on the mode of its organisation and control, on the forms of cooperation of spiritual activity" (Tolstykh (ed.) 1981).

As we can see, Soviet theorists' attempts to resolve certain ideologically determined methodological difficulties prevented them from the identification and grounding of socially located cultural elements. But, what is remarkable, is that it is hard to miss the obvious repercussions in Soviet literature of the new culturological approach, particularly that of Williams. Developing Herder's ideas about the generalising significance of the culture concept, he stressed the difference between the meaning of culture as the degree of development or the combination of social institutions, and as "a particular way of life, which expresses certain meanings and values not only in art and learning but also in institutions and ordinary behaviour" (1961: 41).

Therefore, the task of the sociology of culture is considered as the historical criticism of "general `laws' or `trends', by which social and cultural development as a whole can be better understood" (Williams 1961: 42). But unlike western researchers into either `particular ways of life' (i.e. subcultural theorists) or the `moving equilibrium' of a complex cultural system, Soviet culturologists do not make full use of Williams ideas as they try to work out the most fruitful historical approach to cultural interaction and dynamics. Nevertheless, the future development of cultural studies in the Soviet Union, I would argue, is going to be shaped by the same general concerns which have led our counterparts in the West to adopt a considerable degree of theoretical pluralism.

However, the problem of defining mass culture will remain insoluble, while its problematic is situated apart from any general theoretical advancement. To resolve such a difficulty it is necessary to scrutinise the problem of the theoretical consistency of the different dimensions, either social scientific or aesthetic, which we can apply to such an enormously vast object as modern culture and its various effects. It seems to me, that first of all, we must recognise the limitations of the term `mass culture'. As Bennett notices, it is just "a convenient way of marking out an area of study rather than a means of stating how that area should be studied or of outlining the assumptions from which research should proceed" (1982: 31).

Considering certain naturally determined and, as a rule, taken-for-granted divergences between the metaphysical criteria of `High Art' and `High Culture' on the one hand and the ordinary judgements of mass consciousness on the other hand and also the differential exposure of individuals to any kind of symbolic distortion, there is the possibility of defining mass culture extremely broadly and axiologically as a general `state' of recent culture. Stauth and Turner have formulated, that from this point of view "in postmodern times probably all culture is pseudo-culture" (1988: 524). In this case all the members of society regardless of their social dispositions are perceived equally without any attempt at sociological explanation. From the other side, as Razlogov puts it, "the modern epoch in a broad socio-cultural sense might be considered as transitional between classical culture and mass culture". Hence, from such a perspective, the historical-sociological characteristics of modern culture are regarded more positively in a way close to that of Benjamin. I would like to summarise this theoretical split in the following terms:

    The meaning of `mass culture' might comprise the axiologically negative evaluations of the `ex-' or `trans-personal" circulation of `substitutive' or `false' values during the era of "cultural industry" in the Adornian sense, connected with uncritical consumption (but not `appropriation' in Bourdieu's terms) and reluctance to acquire `genuine competence'. But these effects from my point of view, should be considered as universal features of human existence: their history, therefore, is all the history of mankind. So, this perspective has no relevance for a sociological foundation of contemporary cultural phenomena.
  1. 2. The term `culture of modern/industrial society' is more suitable as a starting-point for the construction of explanatory schemata concerning cultural differentiation and a plausible theoretical hierarchialisation of complex cultural dynamics both in the West and in the East. On the other hand, it might also help to explain the existence of "a tendency for the symbolic field to legitimise a given state of material class relations by means of the specific mechanism of misrecognition by which symbolic systems represent in transformed, `euphemised', `disinterested' form the balance of forces and hierarchical structure of the field of material class relations" (Garnham and Williams 1980: 215).

Thus, the first aspect of the notion considered represents a somewhat metaphysical problem as a problem of the gap between `Realm of Spirit' and `Realm of Caesar', using Berdyayev's language, or between `Mode of Being' and `Mode of Having' in Fromm's terms. Coming back to the acuteness of the `rock issue' and permanent equations of `non-legitimate youth artistic breakthrough' with the negative effects of `masscult', I have to stress, that, following the `masscult' theorists' interpretation of the `humiliation of the high', there is no difference between, say, the music of Bach and that of the notorious Soviet group Laskoviy May in the way by which it is consumed by so-called mass man. So, there are no convincing reasons for criticising the genres themselves, either those belonging to the `academic market' or to the `non-academic' (using Bourdieu's language). It is not the genres which are at fault in the reader's, beholder's or listener's view. For example, Marcuse, regarding the fate of classic masterpieces (and, in particular, of the painting of Matisse), stated that "but coming to life as classics, they come to life as other than themselves; they are deprived of their antagonistic force, of the estrangement which was the very dimension of their truth" (1970: 64).

No doubt, Marcuse was constantly devoted to the new and `unsolicited' functions of art as an advertisement for the `wares of finance capital', but the very phenomenon of a certain lack of differentiation between various genres attending the process of mass reproduction was noticed correctly. In this connection, according to Bourdieu's arguments, a certain mechanism of `misrecognition' is appropriate to symbolic systems, which do not structure reality by themselves, but which reflect realityin a distorted form. On the other hand these symbolic systems are to certain extent arbitrary, which allows them to be the object of class struggle (1989).

However, questions arise about the obvious differences of taste and competence; so, leaving aside the speculations about `High' and `Low' cultures, it is necessary to specify the reasons for the devotion of cultural group members to their values, which often emerge in the process of resistance to dominant cultural values. This resistence led to the `golden age of' subcultural studies in Britain and Northern America during the 70s, producing detailed descriptions of youth culture, which was by no means monolithic, but "a complex kaleidoscope of several adolescent and youthful subcultures appealing to different age groups from different classes, involving different life styles" (Brake 1985: 7).

At the same time one of the main tasks of subcultural analysis was that of distinguishing between subculture as an element of a cultural system and as an an element of socio-economic structure, as was done by Voloshinov (Bakhtin), who stated that class does not coincide with a `sign community'. Similarly Clarke argued that subculture does not coincide with `subcommunity'. The determination of any concrete subculture is complex, and class, ethnicity, age and other dimensions of subcultural membership may overlap in a complex way. Thus it "necessarily involves membership of a class culture and the subculture may be an extension of, or in opposition to, the class culture" (Brake 1985: 6).

The account of the historical determination of subcultures given by subcultural analysts is of great importance. In the socio-cultural development of Soviet (or, strictly speaking, Russian) culture in the 20th century, there has been a continual emergence of new organic communities, `growing from below', pursuing their specific needs in spite of the pressure from the culture of modern/industrial society (or `mass culture'). This opposition is unlike that between the folk culture of the dominated strata and `high culture' of the dominant in the past, which was characterised by the relative isolation of the former. Nowadays the `new folk' culture is more fragmented and more involved in the process of inter-group and overall cultural events and innovations. From the other side the definition of subculture must imply its `location' within the contemporary cultural reality and the categorical system of cultural theory.

This is the point at which I would like to note certain limitations of the theoretical analysis of subcultures, which, together with the correct and highly significant emphasis on the interaction of the new cultural elements with the new cultural system, eventually reduced the essence of subcultures to the subordinate social positions of their representatives. It implies the inevitable dissolution of subcultural values (and, hence, their specific signs) and their incorporation within the dominant symbolic system. But the continuing life of the new signs, especially artistic ones, and their role not only in incorporation but also in the emergence of the new autochthonous (and often oppositional) cultural groups deomonstrates convincingly their alternative role.

Conceptualising culture in the light of `postwilliamsian discourse' and trying to specify the position of `particular cultures' within the cultural system of industrial or post-industrial society, it is necessary to consider the position of the rock phenomenon, which is extremely significant for the investigation of the problems of youth cultures in Soviet Union.

Is there a Soviet rock or not?

This question was the object of hot debates amongst journalists rather than scientists and some academic musicians during the 70s. Now it is clear that despite the endless arguments concerning its origins, which are alien to the Soviet or Russian tradition of either classical or folk music, the new language of rock is closely connected with the `new structure of feeling' appropriate to Russia with its new interest in `green' issues. However, there are still quite a lot of musicologists and cultural theorists who would strongly deny a richness of content to rock compositions. The popularity of rock in this case is explained by reference to the vulnerability of young souls in the face of the ruthless power of aesthetic `monsters', invading artistic space and overwhelming the `helpless classics'. On the other hand some opinion leaders are suggesting that rock constitutes a revolution in art, which renders the classics obsolete.

The discussions around the nature of rock and the relationships between legitimate and non-legitimate genres raise the problem of the meaning of the `classics'. It is generally assumed that `classics' are the only domain of genuine culture and genuine art, whereas rock and jazz are opposed to it. But this is by no means a scientific musicological explanation. This is in part a misunderstanding of ordinary consciousness determined by certain peculiarities of the Russian language, which has no way of distinguishing the terms `classic' and `classical'. So, I have to digress to consider those categories which have, from my point of view, important sociological significance.

First of all, it is a well known fact that the notion of the `classical' (the equivalent of `classicist' in Russian terminology) has a definite function within art history categories. Therefore, the narrow meaning of this term is connected with a certain historical period of artistic development. From this perspective we can talk about either the classical period of French theatre or that of German philosophy. Equally there is the notion of the classical period of the history of music. It is concerned with the golden age of Viennese music, when the masterpieces of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven came into being. But in the broad sense every work of art, in terms of the treasury of human history and perceived as a high artistic or aesthetic achievement is normally called a `classic' but not `classical' (although in Russian it sounds approximately the same). It implies that not only is the best of classical or romantic music included in this treasury but also folk music, whatever the forms in which it is expressed. Hence, if to assume that rock is the manifestation of the folk art phenomenon appropriate to the modern era and to regard the rock-culture as the `new folk', we should allow the best works of rock-art to be included in the `classic' treasury.

At this point I would like to quote the insightful summary made by Bennett concerning views on the opposition within the artistic culture: "Folk Art grew from below. It was a spontaneous, autochthonous expression of the people, shaped by themselves, pretty much without the benefit of High Culture, to suit their own needs... Folk Art was the people's institution, their private little garden walled off from the great formal park of their masters' High Culture. But Mass Culture breaks down the wall, integrating the masses into a debased form of High Culture and thus becoming an instrument of political domination" (1982: 36).

However, it is noticeable that the opposition and interrelation of the folk-culture to the culture of the dominant sector of society (which is so often simplified as the opposition between Low and High cultures) has never been rigid and unchangeable. It is true, that the culture and art of the lowest strata of the traditional society were fairly restricted (or self-sufficient), but it does not mean that they were totally isolated from the themes coming from `above'. Moreover, the relationship between the opposing cultures of such a type implied the folk community to be the major source of the refined (High, pure or academic) art and, thus, art as a whole, by the supplying it ultimately with all its most significant signs (for example, German Protestant chorales, which provided material for the music of Bach, Brahms and other composers, rest on popular `pub-songs' of the period of the Reformation). In modern times, however, the implemention of different cultural practices and the interrelations between them became much more complicated. As Stauth and Turner put it (however, using the term `mass culture' conventionally): "Modern systems of communication and commodity production have of course made the interaction between elite, avant-garde culture and mass culture especially complex and dynamic. Punk was transformed from oppositional/low culture to haute couture within the space of a few months" (1988: 521).

The striking feature here is the incorporative ability of the culture of industrial society. But on the other hand the subordinate culture (or cultures) become less `reserved' and more `rebellious', giving rise to the phenomenon of a `counter-culture'. This side of the cultural opposition is characterised by permanent renewal, rising of new elements or sectors and withering away of the `incorporated'. Bourdieu, describing their nature and origins, writes: "what is nowadays called the `counter-culture' may well be the product of the endeavour of new-style autodidacts to free themselves from the constraints of the scholastic market (to which the less confident old-style autodidacts continue to submit, although it condemns their products in advance). They strive to do so by producing another market, with its own consecrating agencies" (1989: 96).

The image of the wall, mentioned earlier in Bennett's quotation, therefore, comes to be that of alienation, realised by the `deprived', and more serious rock groups, such as Pink Floyd (e.g in the album `The Wall' 1979). Therefore, the equation of rock with the mechanisms of `mass culture' is obviously not correct; but, on the other hand, one should be careful not to identify rock as folk-lore (in the traditional narrow sense), taking into account the dynamic and changeable character of cultural oppositions, which becomes ever more complicated.

Frith, whose enquiry into the nature of the rock phenomenon seems to be the most substantial and interesting, disputing with Holbrook, has shown the groundlessness of statements that the essence of rock consists just in the exploitation of adolescent needs through the deliberate commercial creation of youth culture. He wrote: "The rock audience is not a passive mass, consuming records like cornflakes, but an active community, making music into a symbol of solidarity and an inspiration for action" (Holbrook 1979: 198).

But the important characteristic feature of Frith's work remains the equation of the notions of `rock' and `pop' through the estimation of the former as a mass medium, although having some peculiarities: "What most clearly distinguishes rock from other mass media is not its audience but its form. Rock is musical communication and its ideology as a mass culture derives not just from the organization of its production, not just from the conditions of its consumption, but also from the artistic intentions of its musical creators and from the aesthetics of its musical forms" (Frith 1979: 14-15).

This theoretical inference seems to be very controversial because, while describing rock as a particular mass medium (just part of the mechanism, of `mass culture'), Frith, at the same time emphasises the creative, active role of the `rock aesthetic'. We could say the same about the aesthetics of romanticism or dodecaphony. Of course there is something, that happens with rock within the process of mass-media production, which allows Frith to say that "the attempts to claim rock products as folk music or as work of art miss the point. Rock works as mass culture; records' ideological influence is determined by what happens to them in the marketplace" (1979: 203). But commodification is by no means the immanent law of rock music.

So, I would like to consider certain social determinants of the emergence of the `rock-phenomenon' in order to clarify the essence of its `artistic language' and to argue with different views on its role as an element employed by `pop-culture'. It should be noticed, in this case that the latter, from my viewpoint, is not more than a category reflecting the functioning of works of art and certain cultural practices within the system of the `culture of industrial society'.

As Frith wrote the ideology of rock rests on the claims that can be drawn from its roots \*- the realism of the blues, the honesty of folk, the sensuality of soul, the politics of reggae, and so on (1979: 177). But the most distinguishing feature of rock is its unity with the musical effect of `beat', which most convincingly reflects the specificity of the new artistic sensibility, the new `tempo' of life. It is not accidental that this sensibility penetrates different genres, and is visible, for example in the third movement of Eighth Symphony of Shostakovich or in many songs by Vysotsky in the Russian folk idiom. From this perspective, rock is a new organic phenomenon, `growing from below', exercised by different cultural groups and even different academic composers (e.g. Eshpay or Webber) in order to find adequate expression of their world view and message. Therefore the blues roots of `classical rock' are represented as linguistic features of secondary significance, being the feature of just some of the main trends in rock (e.g. rock-'n-roll). The influence of the sound of the rock beat is probably physiological and does not depend just on the `ideologically biased perception' of `rebellious youth'. But any artistic language can be used as a mean of commodification in the market-place of `pop-culture', which is actually the artistic field of the `culture of industrial society'.

So, giving the definition of the rock, we should take into account the ambivalence of this term:

    The genesis of rock is the genesis of a `new folk' culture, or cultures, within the framework of modern cultural opposition. More concretely it is connected with the phenomenon of youth counter-culture. As the ideological symbol of resistance rock is subject to certain transformations, especially as it becomes the product of the pop industry.
  1. 2. Rock is also an artistic language, the result of a synthesis of different traditions and new expressive innovations. As a musical language, rock exerts a great influence on the creative artistic activity of different groups in society.

In the light of these assumptions I would suggest that the modern sphere of artistic life consists of two major markets: `academic' and `non-academic' (using Bourdieu's terminology, 1989: 13), which includes the field of `new folk'. This opposition of categories seems to be more suitable to substitute for the conventional opposition (classics vs rock, for example). There is a great variety of attitudes to rock culture. In the Soviet Union, for example, disapproval of it was expressed in the disgust at the very metaphor of `Rolling Stones' (cf. the metaphor of `Deep Purple' in rock), threatening to shatter the cosy world of `genuine culture'. (Even the Russian translation of the word `rock' sounds like `doom'!)

Necessity and limitations of typology

The beginning of the wide development of modern `subcultural' forms in the Soviet Union came from the years of the first `thaw' of the 1950s. On the one hand it was a time of new hopes and the awakening of people's imagination and creativity, `growing from below'. This was the end of the reign of `Asiatic despotism', when cultural relations were characterised by almost traditional simplicity. But on the other hand it was the period of the beginning of new forms of ideological control, which were becoming more sophisticated. From the first years of the existence of the `socialist state' it was quite clear that the new ruling social stratum was not homogeneous. However, by the 1950s the ambiguity of the bureaucracy's social position and the impracticability of the Soviet-type economy and cultural planning system began to be evident. What had been hidden under the myth of the perfection of the `socialist culture' have now become `manifestations of mass culture'. The complexity of the structures of different group values and the dynamism of group `ways of life' have become more obvious. This fact confirms the important proposition, that "The dominant culture of a complex society is never a homogeneous structure. It is layered, reflecting different interests within the dominant class... containing different traces from the past" (Hall et al. 1976: 12).

The beginning of the post-Stalinist period in the Soviet Union was characterised by the growth of the mass media and of general access to TV and radio programmes. In this situation the influence of cultural information from the West, with which the growth of the popularity of rock was connected, became inevitable. The first `cultural struggle' in those times occurred in connection with the emerging popularity of jazz, and it became the first objective of `counter-propaganda' during the 1950s. But at the same time some new counter-cultural trends appeared within the Russian musical and poetic tradition, namely the `bard-movement' (the performance by authors of their own songs mostly in Russian folk style accompanied by guitar), which was initially connected with the names of Galich and Okudzhava.

The popularity of western rock (The Beatles, Deep Purple, Rolling Stones) became an important feature of the way of life of Soviet youth from the end of the 1960s. The beginning of the 1970s was characterised by ideological attacks on the music of the Beatles, which was connected with disgust at the use of beat as a specific means of rock-expression. Nevertheless, beat has become accepted by the musical and cultural officialdom due to its functioning as a new artistic language, as mentioned above: it was often employed in order to give attractiveness to songs about Komsomol, Baikal-Amur rail project etc.

From the other side, at the beginning of the 1980s, when the highest point of the struggle with rock was reached, Soviet rock-underground became mature. It gave rise to new musical trends: rock-'n-roll, art-rock, rock-ballads, and songs which referred to the music and idioms of criminals and the streets. The two most representative groups of this period were `Machine of Time' and `Aquarium'.

The blossoming of the commercialisation of rock began in 1985, after which the fundamental similarity of cultural processes between East and West became obvious. Now the `map of attitudes' to rock in the Soviet Union is extraordinarily variegated. For many old people every composition in a beat idiom is still unacceptable. Also there are many who grew up at the time of the popularity of the Beatles and other `classical' rock-groups. Their rock-views are now quite elitist like that of jazz-amateurs. The great majority of teenagers, having a strong adherence to rock, very often tend to consider only `heavy metal' as `genuine rock', expressing their non-conformism. However, the main group which has a more reflective response to rock is that of students. According to a small-scale opinion poll, conducted by myself among students of Kazan State University, 29% of the sample of 200 regarded rock primarily as form of entertainment, but there was a significant group who considered rock as an artistic language (25%) or as a form of `serious music' (20%). The view that rock is a form of social protest was not so popular (11%).

These variations in attitudes to rock are a significant indicator of the pattern of differentiation among Soviet youth. But despite the necessity of typological description, this task is very difficult. The fact that there still remain some traces of traditional stratification in Russian society (I have to restrict my frame of reference to the Russian Federation, since the cultural variety of the multinational Soviet state does not allow one to construct a comprehensive scheme) apparently allows a simple division, although this leaves much to be desired. In this case we can distinguish three main groups of Russian youth: peasant youth, working class youth, and children of the Soviet `upperclass' (the `bureaucracy' or nomenklatura).

But, in the light of the major changes in our society and the specificity of the Soviet intelligentsia's position within cultural processes, we should take into account the effects of cultural overlapping and intersection. This will show the pattern of differentiation of cultural practices conditioned by "shifts in the social and cultural position of youth and changes in the structure of class relations and class-based meaning systems" (Murdock 1976: 207).

Bourdieu's explanation of the role of intellectuals as a dominated group within the dominant stratum of society is quite relevant to the Soviet case, if we refer to the intelligentsia as a part of our traditional establishment. But there is another section of Russian intellectuals, which, along with the rock-movement, represents a cultural opposition. Therefore, we should construct a typology of Russian youth by considering the complex nature of cultural opposition, in which the youth counter-culture was by no means alone. On the other hand, we cannot ascribe to the `upper class' the exclusive right to `high culture', because its members have never been the `aristocracy'; on the contrary, they also have `lower class' origins.

One more difficulty of analysis consists in the specific functioning of the system of `educational capital' in the Soviet Union. This is characterised on the one hand by the relative equality of opportunities to acquire a not very good education through entering state educational establishments, and on the other hand by a great deal of personal activeness in the process of self-education. However, Brake's schema is quite useful as a starting point for a preliminary typology. Following this (but excluding `politically militant youth' in the case of the Russian Federation), we can find `respectable youth', `delinquent youth' and our domestic `cultural rebels'. But there is another plausible version of this typolology:

    `Intellectuals', striving to express their emotions and world outlook in the sphere of discourse, generally separated from real life through a process of abstraction, or in the adherence to refined art (and similarly in the sphere of rock), either avant-garde or old classics. It is noticeable, that this group can comprise Christian new-thinkers as well as pro- or contra-Marxists.
  1. 2. `Politically active youth', divided into many sub-groups, being united, in general, in opposition to the old order. Rock-music as a manifestation of political protest is often their favourite symbol.
  2. 3. `Delinquent youth', characterised predominantly by artistic ignorance. They do not differentiate between `rock' and `pop', but in practice they like to express their `freedom' in terms of `heavy metal' and so on.

These groups differ considerably according to their size and social activity. The second is the largest. Its future is especially difficult to predict, because of its potential for division in the new political conditions. Of course, this typology is quite approximate and insufficient to explain the complexity of attitudes to rock: their connection, on the one hand, with the problems of youth culture, and, on the other hand, with the problem of `mass culture'. In addition, I would suggest, we can use the term `rock' in an ideological sense as a symbol not just of youth cultures, but also as a symbol of `youthful' cultures (Brake 1985: 22), illuminating the general study of cultural and political division in the Soviet Union.

The elaboration of cultural studies in the Soviet Union is an urgent task. The specificity of theoretical problems concerning youth implies not just the repetition of western subcultural theory, methods and inferences. Taking into account this experience, we should not confine ourselves just to description and investigation of youth delinquency problems. There is a strong connection between general socio-cultural processes, leading to the formation of the `culture of industrial society', and the genesis of various cultural elements of this society. It is clear that in these conditions of rapid change the gap between generational sets of consciousness becomes greater. But as Mannheim once noticed, `youthful response' contains positive and creative qualities. This response is by no means restricted to the mechanisms of `mass culture' or just egotistical challenge. That is why the sociological theory of culture should be concerned "with the study not of the immediate interest of certain strata in particular ideational contents but of their mediated involvement with the entire world-view that pertains to these contents" (Mannheim 1982: 275).

However, in order to understand this general involvement, we should get rid of old ideologically biased oversimplifying assumptions about the `totality' of `mass culture'.


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