Tautology as the Highest Form of Ideology: Reflections on Stalinist Discourse (1930-1953)
The chapter takes theoretical aim at the frequent occurrence of tautology in official Stalinist language. My goal is to shed light on a phenomenon that has been inadequately understood in existing scholarship. The tautologies of Soviet ideological discourse have been traditionally interpreted as either showcasing the primitive intellectual level of party scribes or as exemplifying the general irrationalism of totalitarian language. In the scholarly tradition of langue de bois (dereviannyi iazyk, “wooden language”), a propensity for meaningless repetition was seen as one of the ways in which the linguistic medium, mobilized in the service of modern political dictatorships, aids in the disabling of independent rational thought. Against this line of interpretation, the present chapter argues that the tautologies of Stalinist language are something more than mind-numbing nonsense. A certain logic lies behind these seemingly anomalous expressions, and it could give us a key to understanding the character of Stalinist ideology. Slavoj Žižiek’s theory of ideological discourse, with its emphasis on the tautological nature of the master-signifier, and Roland Barthes’s notion of “naturalization” provide the contrasting background for my argument. By analyzing instances of tautology from official Soviet texts, I show that the logic of repetition/redundancy in them is qualitatively different from what these two influential theorizations of ideology have proposed.
Studi di Storia
EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Petre Petrov, "Tautology as the Highest Form of Ideology: Reflections on Stalinist Discourse (1930-1953)" in: "Words of Power, the Power of Words. The Twentieth-Century Communist Discourse in International Perspective", Trieste, EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, 2019, pp. 221-237
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