The Munich Institute for the Study of the USSR: Origin and Social Composition

Charles T. O'Connell


A lamentable shortcoming of Soviet studies in America has been the neglect of its own history. The discipline has produced no systematic, empirically grounded, critical review of itself. To be sure, there have been periodic assessments of the field measured in terms of funding monies available, Ph.D.'s produced, and research trips abroad to Soviet archives. Such quantified examinations have been periodically supplemented by critical essays which measure the strength of the field less by numbers of research articles produced and more by the fruitfulness of the theoretical and methodological assumptions guiding research. The very few pieces in this genre have chided the profession of Soviet studies for basing itself upon Cold War political assumptions and for a political self-censorship which, until the arrival of the revisionist historians, produced a sterile intellectual orthodoxy? These provocative assessments of the relationship of politics to science in Soviet studies have been quite important for raising the question of the influence of social factors upon the practice of science and for delineating the broad contours of political influence. These accomplishments notwithstanding, the critical reviews of the field suffer from the absence of empirically detailed presentations of evidence that would support their controversial claims.

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