Behavioral and Post-behavioral Methodologies in Communist Studies

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Soviet Union. Union soviétique



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Slightly over a decade ago, Frederic Fleron edited a volume of critical essays and research breaking with the established tradition in communist studies. Two years later, another book on the behavioral revolution in communist studies appeared in print, edited by Roger Kanet. These two publications signified a turning point when scattered dissent grew into an open revolt against traditional modes of inquiry practiced by students of communism.

Ten years are perhaps too short a time span to judge the fruits of the behavioral revolution. As Triska and Cocks have recently observed, "The behavioral revolution in Commnunist studies is still an 'unfinished revolution.' " It seems justified, however, to pause and reflect on what has been already done without waiting for the behavioralist promise to be kept in full. I cannot undertake here a comprehensive review of numerous works based on behavioralist methodology, What I attempt to do is to isolate some critical problems raised by behavioralist research and to contrast behavioralist and nonbehavioralist methodologies in commiunist studies. The major concern of this article is methodological. Substantive issues are touched insofar as they help to shed light on procedural questions. I begin with a short review of the current split between commnunist area studies and behavioralism. Then I discuss the results of some behavioralist research and examine records of predictions in traditional and behavioralist research on communist society. Next, I contrast theoretical assumptions underlying behavioralist and interpretative methodologies in social research, and finally, I discuss the prospects for hermeneutical study of communist societies.

The following analysis draws primarily on the contributions made by political scientists and sociologists-scholars most receptive to the behavioralist appeal. It is hoped that this discussion may be useful lo behavioralist and interpretative researchers working in other branches of Western scholarship on communism.


Behaviorism (Psychology)--Social aspects; Communism and society; Communism--Research; Sociology--Research--Methodology


Politics and Social Change | Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies | Regional Sociology | Social Psychology and Interaction | Sociology | Sociology of Culture




This article is a revision of the paper presented at the 1979 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, New Haven, Conn.


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ISSN: 0094-2863

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