Sociologist Ella Paneah About Her Favorite Books

A life 2023

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Sociologist Ella Paneah About Her Favorite Books
Sociologist Ella Paneah About Her Favorite Books
Video: Sociologist Ella Paneah About Her Favorite Books
Video: My Favorite Sociology Books! 2023, February

IN THE HEADING "BOOKSHELF" we ask the heroines about their literary preferences and publications, which occupy an important place in the bookcase. Today sociologist and publicist Ella Paneah tells about her favorite books.

INTERVIEW: Alisa Taezhnaya

PHOTOS: Alexander Karnyukhin

MAKEUP: Elena Kazantseva


Ella Paneah

Sociologist and publicist

I'm probably alone

of the few freaks who have re-read the complete works of Balzac

I read all my childhood and, one might say, did not do anything in my childhood. I just sat and read continuously until I started some kind of life besides reading. Perestroika began - in 1986 I was sixteen years old. And I quickly found myself informal parties in which I could already live, and not hide in books.

But oddly enough, all parties also ended with books. At first I got in touch with a Jewish get-together and found myself sorting out and organizing its library: I worked a little in the library of the Academy of Sciences at the age of seventeen and knew how to do it, how to put ciphers and so on. Then I joined the Democratic Union party and pretty quickly found myself there copying books. My older friend, who taught me this, just hung a blanket over the kitchen window with a blanket and printed: instead of an ordinary light bulb, a red one was screwed in, and then leaflets for the rallies or samizdat books were produced on an industrial scale. In particular, we managed to reprint "The Gulag Archipelago" several times in its entirety with a photographic method - just a month before it was published in the magazine version, it was very offensive.

Apparently, I was born a sociologist, but since the social sciences in the Soviet Union were in a very large enclosure, for the time being I had to be content with other sources of knowledge about how relationships between people work. I re-read the entire Russian and French XIX century, which was available enough, and already appeared books by psychologists and literary critics, which in fact were about society. I am probably one of the few freaks who have re-read the complete works of Balzac. As a standard, I read Russian classics, and then literary texts, which explained something about social relations between people. Perhaps not everyone will agree with me, but I think that all our intimate acquaintance with the life of the Pushkin circle and the golden age of Russian poetry is actually completely different from how real life was historically arranged. It was a pretext for talking about the present in an allegorical language, an attempt by the Soviet intelligentsia to explain among themselves about how they themselves should live in their era.

For many years I have been studying the state: I look at how it works in its different parts, I study state organizations and the legal field. Many of the structures that I come across as a researcher in practice are rooted, old, and many, on the contrary, were constructed quite recently - and at the same time it seems to us that it could not be otherwise. Reading the books from the list below led me to the idea that it is necessary to figure out which of the properties of the state, which we consider natural, are historically old and are the same everywhere, and which will fall apart when a certain historical period passes. This is what I'm digging into right now.

For many years I have been studying the state: I look at how it works in its different parts.

Irving Hoffman

"Introducing yourself to others"

My first real sociological book fell into my hands when I was already an adult - and I was terribly lucky with it. This is truly a classic, a basic text that defines sociology of the 20th century. I had it in my hands as soon as it came out - and I realized that I really want to know about the world around me.I was not interested in the thoughts of Natasha Rostova, but I was interested in the basic microcomponents of what society is made of, how people get something more or less uniform and predictable. Hoffmann is also wonderful because, in addition to being a great sociologist, he also writes very funny.

Michel Foucault

"Discipline and Punish"

In the early 1990s, a lot of books began to be printed that explain about society and about people in plain language: in the language of science, not artistic metaphor. The second sociological book that really influenced me greatly is Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, also read during my student years. No one at that time had a formal education in the Western social sciences, so I did not understand which tradition Foucault was part of. But at the same time, he completely broke the template - it was a fundamentally new way for me to talk about the structures of power and how people influence each other in modern society.

After "Discipline and Punish" you begin to feel how a modern person is not free, not noticing this: the structures of power in society are arranged so that a person does not notice them. Yes, this is not direct violence, this is not a policeman with a pistol who makes you do something by force. It’s all the time as if you yourself want everything that you do not in your favor, as if you yourself see to it that, God forbid, do not violate public order and the existing hierarchy. But in fact, this is all - the overseers who have been placed in your head. And the structures that the current overseers put into your head have not always existed: they were created, constructed - partly deliberately - by people who knew what they were doing.

My conviction is that what you understand cannot frighten. And these structures, because they are soft, are very vulnerable to understanding. I am, of course, exaggerating a little when I talk about fear and understanding. If you understand how a nuclear bomb works, maybe it scares you even more. But when you understand how those structures are arranged that make you refuse to attend the party, if you do not have time to put on makeup and style your hair, then you stop refusing to attend the party for this reason - and the structures of power go like a forest past you. In the modern world, violence is often arranged not as a bomb, but as a set of psychological structures-manipulations on the part of others. Their beliefs that it cannot be otherwise, and in their right to control others. And your beliefs are the same. These beliefs are afraid of light, afraid of being voiced, and even a tacit understanding of what exactly is happening allows you to become much more independent of them.

Charles Tilly

"Coercion, Capital and European States"

The book dates back to my sociological education - I met it at the University of Michigan. There I took a course in Russian history: I was fond of history and thought that I knew it well, at least the history of my country. And this, of course, was a completely different view.

Tilly takes the concept of a stationary bandit, borrowed from Mansur Olson, and builds a model of the origin of the European state, which begins with the fact that a bandit comes to earth - as according to legend, Rurik came to us. Then, of course, a legend was created that he was called, but in general, just some wandering head of the gang came and sat down on the ground. And then everything depends on whether he needs this land, whether he has opportunities for unlimited expansion, whether he needs a population to develop further, or whether he can continue to live by seizing new lands. European states, since they very quickly seized the entire territory, differed in that every bandit on the border had the same bandit - and they were forced to develop their territory and come into contact with the population.

Russia appears in this book as an example of the opposite situation - a state that does not need its population at all, except to push off from it and continue its expansion. Now, after reading modern books on Russian history, I understand that this is a highly exaggerated view, but there were no current books at that time - this was my very first book on macrosociology.

Hernando de Soto

"The Riddle of Capital"

“The Riddle of Capital. Why capitalism triumphs in the West and suffers defeat in the rest of the world”- this is how it is called in Russian. This book was published in the mid-90s, was very popular all over the world, but thundered and died out, without becoming a great classic. De Soto is an economist from Peru who was involved in the reforms there and wondered why capitalism did not work, and went to do field research.

De Soto and his assistants began to figure out what prevents people from using their resources as capital - property, resources or money that can start working and help get out of poverty, start their own business. In the regions he studies, people have a lot of property, but there are no conditions for property to turn into capital, that is, to start working. And he describes a very interesting situation: we are used to thinking that if there is no law and order for everyone in a country, then most likely the situation will be such that the elites do what they want, and the people are forced to live according to the laws that the elites have written for them, so that they it was more convenient to operate.

But De Soto describes the Latin American situation as exactly the opposite. There is law and order for the elites. It is easy for you to register a company if you have acquaintances, you will not be deceived, you will be given a loan, the police will protect you, your property will be protected by the state, you can use the court if you have problems, and now there is law and order for you. But it doesn't apply to everyone. And where there is an area of ​​law and order, that is, where there are resources to use them - and normal capitalism occurs. And all other people live outside of it, outside this institutional framework.

Douglas North

"Violence and Social Orders"

A late book of the late 2000s, and for North, in my opinion, the last. She was very influential in Russia in the early tenths, she was read here instantly. It was a very new and fruitful framework for talking about how society is changing at the macro level. The concept of North's idea is that order, rights and security arise when social groups appear that can demand them for themselves and, as they say, pay. The elite is becoming a lot due to the division of labor, each elite controls its resource, has its own skills, without which you can not get anywhere. The military cannot do without scientists. Scientists cannot do without financiers. Elites, who cannot do without each other, have to negotiate and arrange some kind of space for security, recognition of mutual rights and mutual assistance. And then there is what North called the order of limited access (this is exactly what De Soto also describes).

When you have unique resources, you have influence and you find yourself in the circle of full-fledged citizens who cannot be subjected to arbitrariness as long as they abide by conventions for which there is court, justice and the right to vote. If the development of society goes in the right direction, then access will expand. And at some point, it becomes easier to stretch this umbrella on everyone than to maintain a barrier between the elite and the population. And, accordingly, the order of limited access is replaced by the order of full access, and all citizens of the country receive the right to take part in decision-making, the right to security, protection by law, and protection of property.

North's theory allows us to comprehend and see how stable institutions are, the rules of the game that people take for granted and do not dispute how they are formed at the micro level. And to bridge the gap between everyday life and how big structures are put together. How, for example, business customs are formed. Interaction between business and government. How is the face of what political scientists call a political regime.

James Scott

"Good intentions of the state"

In the original, this book is called "Seeing like a state" - if I were translating this title, I would translate it as "From a state point of view." This book is about how, what large and monstrous social consequences occurred when the state of the modern era - large, territorial and claiming to control all people and all resources, all aspects of life on the subject territory - begins projects for the benefit of humanity.

Scott describes a dozen projects that the state tried to implement in the 18th, 19th, 20th centuries. Naturally, the most striking examples are taken from some colonial stories, where the state comes to a population that is very unprepared for the fact that it will be rewritten, classified, and explained to it the new rules of the game. And Scott studies the practice of resistance, because people resist such ordering, rationalization, interference in their daily life. And they resist in a rather uniform way, whether they are the natives, whom the colonialists came to, or people whom they decided to do good by building a well-organized city of the future for them.

It works the same way in bureaucracy, I see it in my own research. The policemen who were inundated with reports. Students who are pushed into timetables and deadlines. Judges who have everything bureaucratic. Officials. Everyone develops practices that make them invisible to control systems. Not stand out in any way - on the one hand, and on the other hand, impenetrable. "On paper we are what you need, and what we really are, you will never see."

The description made by Scott is a very convenient tool for studying any area of ​​modern life, because our state is comprehensive and total, it permeates society as a whole. An ordinary reader may find a book interesting simply because it is a dozen very exciting stories about why big projects fail or are always carried out differently than on paper. As in the proverb - it was smooth on paper, but they forgot about the ravines.

James Scott

"Hidden Transcript",

"The art of uncontrollable life"

Scott has two other great books. One of them has not been translated, in my opinion, still into Russian and is called "Hidden Transcript" - about how people, using language and stories, build for themselves the opportunity, if not to resist violence and exploitation, then at least to preserve their dignity and having a meaning in life when they are dominated and dehumanized. And his late book, which everyone needs, is called "The Art of Uncontrollable Life" - about the stateless regions that have survived to this day in the world. It is very interesting.

The only drawback of this book is that it takes Zomia, a mountainous inaccessible region in Southeast Asia as an example of such a region, and, accordingly, the entire historical outline is taken from the history of this region, which, for example, is completely unfamiliar to me. You read - and you don't have any picture in front of your eyes, the names of the historical figures whom he mentions do not say anything. If he wrote this about Europe, it would be much more interesting to read.

Zygmunt Bauman

"Fluid modernity"

The story of what is happening to us now. About how the modern world is being destroyed - rationalized, overregulated, where the state is the main provider of institutions.Bauman explains that humans have improved ways of interacting with each other and better institutions. A modern example (the book itself was written earlier): the social network is better at bringing people together than a partnership at work or at school. You select a better and more suitable environment for you personally and at the same time do not lose, by the way, those people with whom you were connected in the previous stages of your life. Everyone has found for themselves those people who are suitable for him for intellectual exchange.

There is also a problem, they began to write about it later: this leads to the formation of closed bubbles, where it seems to a person that the whole world is like him. But at the same time, everyone interacts with those who suit him better, the variety of the environment for everyone is still growing rather than falling. And these ties are "cheaper" in terms of resources, faster, and less control over a person is sewn into them than in the hierarchical old structures dependent on states, so they win. Hierarchies remain “for the poor and the backward,” all who can leave them, wherever they can. Compare a video tutorial on the Internet and formal education with a diploma - where will you quickly learn exactly what you need right now? It is a faster solution and newer institutions of "fluid modernity" that is inherited from the institutions of modernity - large hierarchical bureaucratic structures.

Jared Diamond

"Guns, Germs and Steel"

A terribly fascinating reading about how, from the point of view of Diamond, geography and nature predetermine everything - indeed all the destinies of human societies. The book, to be honest, is pseudoscientific, popular science. But it reads very exciting - you really learn a lot of interesting things.

Alexander Markov

"Human evolution"

This is a dilogy: "Monkeys, Bones and Genes", "Monkeys, Neurons and Soul". A book dilogy that reads like a detective story, it may well be read by a person without any biological education. The author is an outstanding scientist in his own right, but writes for ordinary people that there is something objective, not socially constructed, that really defines us. And biology is connected with our sociality in a completely different way than everyone thinks. After reading Markov, you will never again say "in monkeys, alpha males eat first, which means that alpha males should eat first" or "monkeys have polygamy, which means we must have polygamy." Everything is much more complicated - culture participated in evolution much earlier than evolution made man.

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