Rationality in a fatalistic world: explaining revolutionary apathy in pre-Soviet peasants

Mind and Society 18 (1):125-137 (2019)
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This paper studies the attempts (and failure) of Russian revolutionaries to mobilize the peasantry in the decade leading to the Soviet revolution of 1917. Peasants, who had been emancipated from serfdom only four decades earlier, in 1861, were still largely propertyless and poor. This would, at first glance, make them a ripe target for revolutionary activity. But peasants were largely refractory. We explain this lack of revolutionary spirit through two models. First, despite their lack of education and political awareness, the peasants were rational in their refusal to participate in revolutionary activity; they engaged in a cost–benefit calculus which pushed them away from revolt and political organization. Second, based on the Wildavsky–Thompson cultural types, Russian peasants were largely fatalist: they believed they had no influence on the world, so it was not worth attempting to change it. This paper sheds light on some aspects of the Russian revolution, but also encourages further research in history and economic sociology on the interaction between culture and incentives.



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References found in this work

The Sensory Order.Martha Kneale & F. A. Hayek - 1954 - Philosophical Quarterly 4 (15):189.
The Sensory Order.F. A. Hayek - 1954 - Philosophy 29 (109):183-185.

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