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Durham University

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Miss Sheila Pattle

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My thesis, ‘Rethinking “Developed Socialism”: Industrial Sociology and Enterprise Social Planning under Brezhnev’, is an interdisciplinary social, political and intellectual history. 

The period which Leonid Brezhnev dubbed the era of ‘developed socialism’ was one of steady economic decline, in which the unproductivity and the indiscipline of the workforce were identified as a systemic problem. One way in which the Soviet state attempted to tackle it was through to research-driven social planning in industrial enterprises. This strategy coincided with the resurrection of sociology, three decades since the discipline had virtually disappeared. Of particular importance became the applied subfield of industrial sociology, which was expected to play a major role in enhancing the country’s productivity by impacting on its working collectives in a variety of ways. Its remit included the functions that large enterprises played in the wider social sphere – namely, their responsibilities beyond the factory gates in providing local facilities and services, including housing, welfare and leisure, either directly or via the trade unions. 

The project takes this understudied area as a particularly useful case for exploring the intersections and interactions of academic discourses and practices, state ideology and policy, modes of industrial and economic development, and the social realities of everyday working life in the late Soviet Union. The hypothesis is that the ambitions and disappointments of the late-Soviet project of industrial sociology, its theories and its applications, the ways in which the discipline was directed, developed, deployed and received at different levels, can provide new insights into how the Soviet state sought and failed to regenerate ‘socialism’ prior to the more radical and turbulent approaches of Gorbachev’s perestroika.

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