LIMITS OF THE NORM
What is happening today in Russia and the world makes it necessary to problematize the concept of the norm and its limits. This issue is an attempt to comprehend what the norm is, whether it exists in reality or is simply a way to justify some transitory actions, and what is happening to the limits of the norm—whether they are shrinking, expanding or getting fuzzy. We have decided to look at the norm and its limits through the eyes of historians, philosophers, philologists and biologists. In this issue they discuss what is happening in Russia, how the attitude towards marriage and family is changing, whether the life of the disabled has become better or worse, whether the changes in the Russian language can be regarded as a catastrophe, and also whether smoking is good or bad, why the beard is back in fashion, and many other things.
UNITY AND STRUGGLE
Anna Yampolskaya, Mikhail Yampolsky. The Normal and the Normative
Mikhail Yampolsky and Anna Yampolskaya discuss how the distinction between various types of norms, e.g., semantic, conventional, and essential, can be applied to describe the current social context in Russia. They both agree that while the normativity of social ties in today's Russia is weakened, normality, especially in sexual behavior, is highly cherished and praised. The confusion of the normal and the normative leads to a crisis of trust and personal commitment, which is identified as one of the characteristic features of modern Russian society.
Alexei Muraviev. The Idea of the Norm
The concept of the norm in its two meanings, as the rule and as the "average," emerged in the period of classical antiquity. It is related to ethics and its philosophical substantiation, on the one hand, and law, on the other. The concept of the norm is used both in social regulation (social norm) and in medicine (medical norm), and also in biology (population norm). The article provides a picture of functioning of the social norm as an element of disciplining and examines the question of the "normativizing text" in European culture.
Boris Shalyutin. Normative Evolution and The State
The article examines the nature and main types of the normative regulation of social behavior and the mechanisms and possibilities of destructive and constructive influence of the state's activity standards on other types of social norms.
Alexander Rubtsov. Life as an Experiment with the Norm
Normalization is examined in terms of the universality of its manifestations—in culture, art, science, politics, economics, technical regulation, and also in architecture and town planning. The situation of postmodern is viewed as a response to excessive regularity embodying the paradigm of a total project, be it an ideal city or a totalitarian regime. Postmodernism is assessed as an attempt to make up for the loss of spontaneity by means of artificial and purely superficial simulation. The prospects for movement from postmodern into neoclassicism and rehabilitation of spontaneous development within the framework of self-organization in the new conditions are examined.
Viktor Petrasyuk, Alexander Rubtsov. Limits of the Technical Norm
Standards surround us everywhere and regulate our entire life. Technical norms as such, even though they were used from olden times, began to conquer the world in earnest in the period of the industrial revolution. Globalization has made this process universal. Despite the fact that their main task would seem to be to ensure a general—ideally, uniform—approach to similar processes and objects, this has so far not happened. In different societies, technical norms and norm-setting procedures may vary substantially depending on natural conditions, cultural traditions, the economic system, and the view of their place and role in the world. The established international institutions are of no help here. Technical norms still remain an object of bitter competition among countries and societies.
Kirill Velikanov. Assessments and Sanctions: From Binary Oppositions to Smooth Transitions
Every norm is conventional, i.e., based on explicit or implicit agreements. The statement that some actual phenomenon (or action or parameter or character trait, etc.) is within the limits of the norm is based on subjective assessments (in case of social norms) or on measurement results (in the case of norms falling under physical parameters). The reduction of all assessments or measurements to a scale of only two values, say, 0 ("does not conform to the norm") and 1 ("conforms to the norm"), may be regarded as an artificial simplification applied to a much more varied range of situations. The binarity of norms, assessments and sanctions can be regarded as justified and necessary only in very rare cases. The article examines the possibility of rejection of such binarity in favor of multiple-value (stepped or even smooth) norms, assessments and sanctions and shows how such "smoothed-out" or "indeterminate norms" can work in various areas of human activity.
Boris Zhukov. "Risk Factors" as a Risk Factor
The approach based on the concept of "risk factor" has made it possible to achieve substantial successes in medical prevention. However, an unrestricted use of this approach inevitably leads to a sharp narrowing of the limits of physiological norm, taking not only obvious pathologies but also any varieties under which the probability of developing pathologies in future increases, albeit slightly, outside these limits. As a result, the "norm" turns from what is characteristic of a majority of the population into an ideal imposed from the outside, almost unattainable in reality and strictly uniform. The development of methods of correcting genetic information, expected in the near future, dramatically increases the opportunities for abusing this interpretation of the "norm."
Alexander Kaplan. The Harmony of Explosion: An Interview
Alexander Kaplan, Head of the Laboratory for Neurophysiology and Neuro-Computer Interfaces (NNCI) of Lomonosov Moscow State University, tells about how far science has advanced today in exploring the human brain, how the technology of direct links between the brain and the processor operates, what schizophrenia is, and how close we have come to reaching immortality.
Phoebe Day Danziger. An Easy Death
In the last few months, a campaign for a legislative ban on abortions after the twentieth week of pregnancy or even earlier has been unfolding in the United States. Yet this term is precisely the point when the detection of many fetal anomalies becomes possible. Having decided on an abortion and having thus prevented her baby's suffering and painful dying, the author of the article considers her decision the most important of all the decisions she has ever made.
Kirill Martynov. Kicking Away the Cigarette Habit
The article analyzes the nature of the social norm that has become established in modern society with respect to tobacco smoking. The medical language of describing the harm of smoking is objective from the point of view of science, but it also becomes possible in a certain social and political context where one comes across mass culture, machine production of cigarettes and paternalism. Pyotr Mostovoi. On the Benefits of Smoking The author offers the reader the reflections of a thoughtful smoker who, while not claiming to be scientific, tries to dispute the generally accepted view of smoking as a bad habit.
Anna Belokryltseva. The Norm of Life
Living conditions in Russia have changed very seriously over the last 20 years, which has inevitably resulted in expanding the limits of social norms. Alongside the spreading of such negative social phenomena as homelessness and transience, new positive norms such as, for example, charity and volunteer services and the adoption of orphaned children by families are being established here. The author examines the expansion of the limits of the norm, using the change in the Russians' attitude towards people with disability as an example.
Alexander Meshcheryakov. Modernization of Japan: Acceleration of the Body
The article focuses on the problem of the motion activity of the Japanese in the period of modernization (second half of the 19th through the early 20th century). In traditional Japan, the concept of "motion" had a lowly status; however, the desire to catch up and overtake the West compelled it to reject this opinion. As a result, the bodily behavior of the Japanese underwent substantial changes: it acquired dynamism and speed.
Dmitry Urushev, Alexei Muraviev. A Debate on the Beard: A Manly Fashion and Hygienic Norm
The article examines the functioning of a social norm through the example of European culture's attitude towards the outward appearance of a male, a major part of which was the beard. Rome was distinguished from the Ancient Orient and Greece, where the beard was a strict norm, by the introduction of a conflicting norm—beard shaving. In the Middle Ages, the Greek norm in its strong form was preserved in the East (Byzantium and Old Rus), whereas in the West the weak norm prevailed. This opposition was a common cultural element of the East and the West. In Russia, the strong norm of the beard was lost in the course of Peter the Great's modernization and westernization of the country, where it gradually became an optional norm and then came into fashion. Among religious men, the beard still plays the part of a local norm.
THE WORLD OF THE BEAUTIFUL
Vadim Mikhailin. "I Have Wandered through Orphanages Ever Since I Was Little": "Reeducation" of Street Children in the Soviet Cinema
The article offers an analysis of a kind of micro-genre that developed in the Soviet cinema— films about the "reeducation" of street children at closed-type educational institutions controlled by the VChk-OGPU-NKVD (secret police) in the first decade and a half of Soviet rule. With amazing constancy each next film was released precisely at the time when the need arose to search for a new language of description adequate to still another model of the communist project that had not yet fully developed its shape to replace the one that reached its limits and discredited itself. A plot about "producing" the new Soviet person "from a clean slate" (and street children were very convenient figures in this respect, having been "cleansed" from all social contexts that were superfluous from the point of view of the Bolshevik discourse) against the background of a mythological primary epoch was a real find for projections of this kind.
Judith Lyon-Caen. A Serious Interpretation of Novelistic Stories
What the reader looks for in an adventure novel? He looks for adventures, mysteries and their solutions, and ingenious twists in the plot-something which is by definition not serious. The French researcher, however, basing herself on readers' letters to authors, shows that readers of the 1840s were looking in such a model adventure novel as Eugene Sue's Mysteries of Paris not so much for a head-spinning intrigue as for moral recommendations. Thus, a novel, which, in the eyes of austere critics, belonged to a frivolous and even corrupting genre, was perceived by the reading public as a source of normative prescriptions and answers to the question of how one should live and what one should do.
Alexei Shmelyov. A Widespread Mistake or a New Norm: What Is the Way to Distinguish One from the Other?
The article examines the problems of language norm in the conditions of social shifts directly affecting the language situation and the reflection of language changes in dictionaries and linguistic descriptions. An overview is given of the history of literary language norms in the pre-Soviet, Soviet and post-Soviet periods. A critical analysis is provided of legends circulating in society and being actively promoted by certain journalists concerning the history of language norms, the current language situation and information allegedly contained in dictionaries and reference books.
Valery Kislov. Ulozhenie (Code of Laws)
The author tries to reflect the universals of Russian political and public life in this brief grotesque essay, which is a sequence of ironic linguistic variations on the theme of the stem lozh-/lag-.
Tamara Kusimova. Living Hungry, Dying Young
The review examines The Beauty Myth—a book which was first published in the United States in 1991 and which made its author, Naomi Wolf, one of the most conspicuous spokespersons of third-wave feminism. A complete translation of The Beauty Myth was for the first time published in Russia in 2013. The organized women's movement provided women in Europe and the United States with a full range of civil rights and freedoms. But does the modern woman feel really free? In The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf describes how female beauty standards embodied in images spread by mass culture turn into a repressive norm conforming to which becomes mandatory. The limits of the norm run across a woman's body and mind rather than across the public sphere of rights and freedoms. Women's eating behavior, personal care and attitude towards their bodies become a domain of oppression and struggle against it.
THE LAND OF OZ
Vyacheslav Glazychev. Pomerantsev Lane
OZ begins publishing excerpts from the diaries of the outstanding scholar and public figure Vyacheslav Glazychev (February 26, 1940 - June 5, 2012). Pomerantsev Lane covers the period from infancy to the early school years. The author animatedly tells about the hardships and joys of postwar life in Moscow, conveying the inimitable flavor of the period.
Kristina Gorodnaya. Sentenced to Death. The Life and Fate of Aron Farberov
OZ continues to publish essays by participants in the competition of historical research papers by senior high school students "Man in History: Russia, 20th Century," conducted by the Society "Memorial." On the basis of archival documents Kristina Gorodnaya, a school student from Bryansk Oblast, tells about an underground Zionist youth organization which was active in Bryansk between 1945 and 1949. One of the organizers and leaders of the group, Aron Farberov, was sentenced to death; the sentence was replaced with a sentence of 25 years of prison camp. In the author's opinion, the activity of the organization is a vivid example of resistance to totalitarianism in the USSR, which must be made widely known and appreciated.
Vera Milchina. Windows Facing the Past
The book Okna na Sretenku (Windows Facing Sretenka Street) by Lora Belenkina is based on diaries the author has been keeping all her life. Written in a simple and clear language, without any pathos, the book gives an account of life in wartime and postwar Moscow. The penetrating story of the past is offered not for illustrating any ideological conceptions nor in order to praise or denounce but simply in order to preserve all the details of life, both important and not so important, for posterity.
Inna Bulkina. A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man
The book Muzei (Museum) by well-known art critic Sergei Daniel is neither a monograph nor memoirs about the informal Leningrad culture of the 1960s-1970s, although its subject is directly related to the contemporary history of art criticism. It is above all an education novel. The main character in the book is the Master and its main collision is master-disciple training. Hidden behind the mythological figure of the main character (Old Man) is Grigory Dlugach (1908-1988), head of the so-called "Hermitage School."
Anastasia Yegorova. Semantic Mockup of a Masterpiece
The book Gentsky altar Yana van Eika (Jan van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece) by noted historian of culture Boris Uspensky highlights the Ghent Altarpiece, one of the key works by Jan van Eyck, a Flemish painter of the early Renaissance. The author provides exhaustive information about the history of creating the altarpiece and suggests his own way of interpreting the work by the Flemish master. The main question that the author asks himself is the contrast of the heavenly and the earthly in this work of art. The scholar proposes a fresh, interesting and somewhat unconventional approach to understanding it; getting acquainted with it will be of interest not only to specialists but also to general readers interested in art.