Historical sociology and great power vulnerability : the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union
This thesis examines the collapse of Soviet state power from an international perspective. It assesses the extent to which the Soviet Union's international confrontation with the capitalist West, and the end of that confrontation, contributed to the strengthening and weakening of the Soviet state. It shows that the state's international stance of hostility, in both social-systemic and geopolitical terms, became a central component of Soviet state power. Central to this study is the assumption that the continuation of state power is contingent on the successful reproduction of the institutions of political rule. To this end, the thesis develops a historical sociological theory of the state which builds on a critique of neo-Weberian institutional-functional theories of the modem state. Using this theory, the thesis examines the development of Soviet state power and draws out the ways in which the international confrontation with the West reinforced the Soviet state and came to develop and shape its structures and institutions. Following an examination of the end of the Cold War, the thesis considers the way in which the change in international policy undermined elements of Soviet power, particularly in terms of ideology, legitimacy and material-organisational structures. The retreat from this posture, undertaken by Gorbachev through the 1980s, removed the conflict as a structure of the state, contributed to its weakening and helped make the state vulnerable to the challenges of the 1990-91 period. The thesis concludes that the international confrontation played an important ideational and material role in the development and undermining of Soviet state power. Moreover, the international confrontation was a vital part of the architecture of the Soviet state which helped make the state's claim to rule a more robust and effective socio-political mechanism.