Starting with Lefort’s Paradox—the split between ideological enunciation (which reflects the theoretical ideals of the Enlightenment) and ideological rule (manifest in the practical concerns of the modern state’s political authority), the author differentiates one action into two dimensions, i.e. the act of voting in the conventional context of a meeting does two things at once: it states ones’ opinion (the constative dimension) and binds the vote within the system of rules and norms where it si recognized as a legitimate vote (the performative dimension).
Since the relative importance of the constative and performative dimensions of a ritualized act and speech act in any given new instance can never be completely known in advance, the constative and performative dimensions may “drift” historically. In other words, the person may not have to pay much attention to the constative dimension of the vote, but will still have to attend closely to the vote’s performative dimension. It became increasingly more important to participate in the reproduction of the form of these ritualized acts of authoritative discourse than to engage with their constative meanings.
As a result of Stalin’s “Paradigm Shift”, the new authoritative language of late Socialism had acquired certain unique characteristics, that is, the process of its normalization did not simply affect all levels of linguistic, textual, and narrative structure but also became an end in itself, resulting in fixed and cumbersome forms of language that were often neither interpreted nor easily interpretable at the level of constative meaning. The implicit model of language now shifted further toward the so-called “pragmatic model” of language, which the same text may have multiple meanings depending on how one chooses to link it to different contexts and other tests; under this model, the same formulation can mean different things in different readings.
As with authoritative language, from the 1950s on the form and style of visual propaganda became increasingly standardized and centralized. These normalized linguistic and visual registers of authoritative discourse in cities were organized into a unified interdiscursive system. Quite the opposite, the performatice replication of the precise forms of authoritative representation rendered the constative meanings associated with this representation unanchored, increasingly unpredictable, and open to new interpretations, enabling the emergence of new and unanticipated meanings, relations, and lifestyles in various contexts of everyday life.
For the majority of Soviet people, being alienated from boring activities, senseless rhetoric, and corrupt bureaucracy was not necessarily in contradiction with being ethically invested in the communist ideals and being involved in activities designed to achieve communist goals. They identified them as “svoi”, whom understood that the norms had to be followed at the ritualistic level, that this was no one’s personal fault, and that one should participate in these routine rituals to avoid causing problems to the Komsorgs, while the Komsorgs worked in turn to reduce the load of tedious Komsomol assignments given to the rank-and-file members. It is a strategy of deterritorialization and the sociality of svoi became one of the central unanticipated products of this deterrotorializing move within late-socialist culture.
On Chapter 4, the author further illustrated this kind of deterritorialization by picturing the style of living “Vnye”, which is a kind of “normal life” in everyday socialism a life that had become invested with creative forms of living that the system enabled but did not fully determine. People are invested in the literary club, the archaeological club, the theoretical physicist circle. The boiler rooms would be a great example. The jobs of boiler room technicians are extremely popular and became difficult to find a vacancy in such a job, because such occupations allowed the person to pursue various interests and amateur careers. Although the salaries for boiler room jobs were lower than for most other occupations, one could easily survive because meeting one’s basic needs in the Soviet Union was inexpensive.
Also, there was nothing wrong with admiring bourgeois luxuries of Western life as long as admiration focused on aesthetic beauty, technological achievement, and the genius of the working people who created them. As a result of that, young people who were interested in Western culture is able to find a way to go around the limiting technical specifications in the shortwave radio; spread homemade gramophone record, also known as “rock on bones”; use empty Western liquor bottles, beer cans and cigarette boxes to create a kind of “still life” installation on the book shelves and cupboards in their rooms; listen to Western rock music. By using Western brands and labels in the Soviet context they infused that context with agency, refusing the literal readings of authoritative discourse, but without necessarily refusing the broader cultural context of socialism, its realities, possibilities, and values.
Another form of this kind of deterritorialization is the aesthetic of stiob. Central to that aesthetic was a refusal of clear-cut boundaries between reality and performance, common sense and absurdity. By the early 1980s, stiob became a aesthetic common to many artistic groups in the Soviet Union. After one Russian rock group AVIA concert in Kiev, in 1987, a couple of older communists came backstage to thank the group for the atmosphere of real communist celebration saying that it ahd become so rare to encounter young people genuinely devoted to communist ideals. After another concert, a different elderly couple thanked the group for the devastating satire of totalitarianism; that couple had spent years in Stalinist camps.
The paradox of late socialism turned out to be this: the more meticulously and unanimously the system’s authoritative forms were reproduced in language, rituals, and other acts, the more its constative meanings became disconnected from form and thus allowed to shift in diverse and increasingly unanticipated directions.