Hale, Henry E., and Marlene Laruelle. “Rethinking Civilizational Identity from the Bottom Up: A Case Study of Russia and a Research Agenda.” Nationalities Papers 48, no. 3 (2020): 585-602.

Abstract

“Civilization” is surely among those concepts that are the most widely used in world political discourse but taken least seriously by contemporary social science. We argue for jettisoning this concept’s Huntingtonian baggage, which has led scholarship into a dead end, and developing a new body of theory on a different foundation, one grounded strongly in recent nonprimordial theories of identity and micro-level research into how ordinary people actually understand the civilizational appeals made by their elites. In what we believe to be the first systematic survey-based study of individual-level civilizational identification, we establish proof-of-concept by asking a question: What influences individuals’ primary identification of their own country with particular civilizational alternatives offered up by their elites? Pooling survey data gathered in Russia from 2013–2014, we confirm that civilizational identity reflects the influence of situational considerations and social construction processes. Whether individuals see Russia as part of purported “European,” “Eurasian,” or “Asian” civilizations depends heavily on gendered and nongendered socialization during the USSR period and factors as contingent as perceived economic performance. Results also confirm our expectation that Huntingtonian concepts fit poorly with real-world patterns of civilizational identification.