Seminar with Dr. Astrid Hedin, Associate Professor, Visiting scholar at Harvard Univ. Davis Center: Communist state administrative structures. Welcome!
When? December 14, 4.15-5.30 pm
Where: Zoom link
Despite the common progeny of communist regimes across the world, research has often treated each communist regime as sui generis, as a class by itself. At the same time, area studies tend to assume that readers are already familiar with the basic structures and core administrative traits of communist regimes.
This article seeks to acquaint a broader set of researchers with communist state administration as a “family” or type (cf. Wollman, 2021). In focus are the core political-institutional features and administrative traditions of the communist state; the historical doctrines, terminology, and actual practices under communism. Administrative structures are described from a broad institutionalist perspective, guided by classic questions concerning principles of hierarchy, autonomy, and complexity, as well as historical praxis and norms, emergent standard operating procedures, and informal rules and relations.
Popular understanding often envisages communist-type administration as hierarchical commands from the top, which can be quietly resisted and circumvented by a purportedly nonpolitical bureaucracy and everyday life. In contrast, empirical studies of both historical communist regimes and 21st-century China draw up a picture of political control more as a tangled and overlapping grid, trellis, espalier, or net.
A concluding section comments on the historical difficulties of doing research on communist administration and suggests some prospects for the field’s change and development