Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10077/29363
Title: Tautology as the Highest Form of Ideology: Reflections on Stalinist Discourse (1930-1953)
Authors: Petrov, Petre
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Source: 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
Journal: Studi di Storia
Abstract: 
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.
Type: Book Chapter
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10077/29363
ISBN: 978-88-5511-086-0
eISBN: 978-88-5511-087-7
Rights: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 Internazionale
Appears in Collections:06 Words of Power, the Power of Words. The Twentieth-Century Communist Discourse in International Perspective

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