This book brings together several of the author's empirical studies that demonstrate the strength and utility of sociologist Robert Merton's classic middle-range theory for understanding aspects of both Soviet and post-Soviet Russian politics. Some of those studies demonstrate that testing middle-range social science theory could take place even in the Soviet era when there were significant limitations of access to empirical data, and meaningful field research in the USSR was all but impossible. In the introductory chapter, the author explains the need for and advantages of studying Russian and Soviet politics from the perspective of middle-range social science theory. Then follow three chapters analyzing methodological issues in Soviet/post-Soviet studies. The author presents his six empirical studies employing middle-range social science theories to explore in Russia/USSR dimensions of organizations, ideology and decisionmaking, techlogy transfer and cultural diffusion, political culture, public opinion and democratization, and congruence of authority patterns in state-society relations. The book concludes with a chapter arguing the advantages of thinking theoretically about Russian and Soviet politics with the establishment of a new epistemic community organized around studies employing middle-range theory. This book presents examples of solutions to long-standing debates between area studies and the academic disciplines and between idiographic and mothetic approaches to kwledge in the social sciences. In contrast to the tradition of Carnivals and Cockfights in Russian/Soviet area studies since the mid-20th Century, the book offers a new way of approaching the study of Russian politics for the 21st Century.
Frederic J. Fleron Jr. is university research scholar and professor emeritus of political science at the State University of New York at Buffalo.