Guest editor’s introduction of the section in memory of I. Kon.
Lomakin I., Tartakovskaya I. (2018). Guest editor’s introduction to the column dedicated to the memory of Igor Kon. Monitoring of Public Opinion: Economic and Social Changes. No 6. P. i-ii
Guest editor’s introduction of the column dedicated to the memory of I. Kon
Igor Semenovich Kon is one the most vivid, talented and well-known Russian social scientists.
As a scientist he was unique both in his great professional influence and authority (even now, seven and a half years after his death, he has one of the highest citation index rating among Russian sociologists), and in his broadest scientific erudition, which allowed him to work productively in various spheres of social science. As he wrote, his work was mainly in “dealing with intellectual bridge-building” [Kon 2008, 366] through the integration of data from different sciences, the development of an interdisciplinary approach and the placing of any empirical research and concepts into a global historical context.
Igor Kon played an important role in the formation and development of gender studies in Russia. He not only reinforced this discipline, still quite young for Russian science, with his authority (including international), but he also wrote several key foundational texts, without which it is impossible to imagine the further development of Russian gender sociology. His monographs “Man in a Changing World”, “The Boy is Father to the Man”, “Strawberries on the Birch Tree: Sexual Culture in Russia”, “Male Body in the History of Culture”, “Moonlight at Dawn: Faces and Masks of Same-sex Love” along with many articles remain the only Russian texts on these topics. These monographs have absolute influence and in a great demand in the field of research on such topics in Russian science like masculinity, sexuality and homosexuality.
Although gender studies were not the only point in the range of his professional interests, Igor Kon gave them several brilliant definitions and formulations describing the system of both modern and historical gender relations in Russia. For example, he called the Soviet gender policy "asexual sexism", stressing that within this ideology men and women were treated as the same, despite the obvious difference between formal and informal rules that ensure the implementation of female and male roles. As the main defining feature of modern gender relations, he considered the change in the nature of intersexual competition. Kon emphasized that the gender tension or "the war of the sexes" has always existed, but in the past its scope has been defined by the culture, so that, as a rule, the man's rival could be only another man, and a woman’s rival – only another woman. The peculiarity of the current social situation is that competition of men and women at the macro-social level now is open and rough, and this competition sets the configuration of gender relations and their understanding in social theory in many ways. Kon was one of the first, who began to consider gender relations in Russia not only in problem-oriented way, but also systematically through the prism of the gender order, which have both global and local dimensions.
Another important aspect of Igor Kon's scientific activity – his works were never addressed only to a highly specialized academic audience. Books and articles by Igor Kon, written in wonderful language, without hypocrisy and detachment, addressing the acute problems of concern to "ordinary people", they have been in demand by a wide range of readers. And this, too, was his conscious choice. Long before the concept of "public sociology" came into everyday sociological use, Igor Kon practiced it in the field of gender studies, considering the mission of the sociologist from the point of view of humanistic moral imperatives. Although gender sociology is a critical theory in its essence, it has a political agenda and it does not use "scientific objectivity" idea as a cover, none of the Russian scientists implemented this principle with such purity and consistency as Igor Kohn did.
He did not put forward the task of creating his own scientific school. He considered his role more like "synthetic-educational", pointing out that he did not approach gender studies as theorists do, who formulates a series of speculative and logically consistent ideas, which someone someday may apply to something, or maybe not. Instead, he tried to conceptualize them through a generalization of reliably ascertained to some extent, but disparate sociological, anthropological, historical and psychological facts. Such position was a kind of voluntarily accepted scientific ascesis, because he believed that "it is more interesting to discuss ideas than facts, but without empirical research it is impossible to distinguish scientific theories and hypotheses from subjective opinions." Of course, his mission was much more serious than purely educational: his approach provided a "quality check" of ideas and concepts circulating in the field of gender theory, not allowing them to go into the field of pure speculation, which quite often could be politically biased. [Tartakovskaya, 2011]
Now, years later, we can see how relevant and inspiring his ideas appeared, how true was his assumptions and predictions. Igor Kon is still present in the scientific discourse as an author, whom you can argue or agree with, which you can rest on. At the same time, he is sorely lacking, because there is still no figure comparable in the scale of scientific and human significance in Russian social studies.
In the anniversary year in Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM) were organized several events dedicated to the anniversary date. Special session "Continuing Kon: Gender, Family and Employment” at VIII Sociology Grushin Conference was the starting point in the celebration of his anniversary. It brought together well-known academic researchers whose scientific interests are closely related to gender issues (see details [Lomakin, 2018]). The same starting point is the column, published periodically in the journal "The Monitoring of Public Opinion: Economic and Social Changes". In this column we continue our work on memorializing Igor Kon, creating a professional space for talking about his intellectual legacy and supporting authors who elaborate his ideas and science topics.
This column, though small, but filled with a very diverse texts, which one way or another referring to a wide research field in which worked Igor Kon.
It presents a selection of letters from Igor Kon to Dmitry Shalin, covering the period from the late 1970th until the last days of the scientist's life. It is a surprisingly moving material in which we can glance with the eyes of the scientist at the political transformation of Russia from the late XX to early XXI centuries and their social consequences. This is the story about survival of post-Soviet science and formation of new areas of social knowledge in a deideologized country. The story of personal struggle and a deep sense of loneliness. The story of friendship and mentoring carried through the years and numerous obstacles.
In the joint article by Irina Tartakovskaya and Igor Lunin authors examine the contribution of Igor Kon to the foresight of modern global trends in the field of gender and sexuality, primarily of individualization and pluralization of cultures and lifestyles. The modern world is seen by the authors as a constellation of different models of gender order and policies related to sexuality, as demonstrated by them in several examples from Europe, Asia and North America. Modern challenges make gender relations and sexuality as the main agenda of the day, and in these conditions Igor Kon's works only increase their heuristic potential.
The article by sociologists Elena Zdravomyslova and Anna Temkina is devoted to the review of key categories of Critical Studies of Men and Masculinities (CSMM) and covers such concepts widely used today by gender sociologists as "hegemonic masculinity" or "masculinity crisis", originally introduced into the Russian academic discourse by Igor Kon. Special attention paid to the intersectional approach as a key principle in modern CSMM. The authors also refer to the extremely relevant subject of "evil white men", used to discuss conservative and revanchist subjects focused on the reanimation of the patriarchate.
We want to note the review of Pavel Kamenshchikov on the book “Hate Crime against LGBT in Russia” by Alexander Kondakov. This review examines not only the main theses presented in the book, but also offers a critical look at some of them. Moreover, the reviewer attempts to determine the place of the examined book in the modern Russian research field.
We also announce the release of the next column "Gender, family, sexuality. Continuing Kon”, planned in № 2 (2019).
Texts for this column are being prepared now, and among the authors are not only sociologists, but also historians, anthropologists, demographers, psychologists. In difficult for social sciences Soviet period and in its own way uneasy post-Soviet years Kon was generally recognized as a true innovator in everything he did. In this sense, he probably was ahead of time. We sincerely hope that the materials published today will only strengthen such attitude toward multidisciplinary and eclectic legacy of Igor Kon.
Kon I.S. (2008). Eighty Years of Solitude. Moscow: Vremya. (In Russ.).
Lomakin I.V. (2018). Continuing Igor Kon: Gender, Family and Employment. Special Session at VIII Sociology Grushin Conference. Monitoring of Public Opinion: Economic and Social Changes. No 3. P. 364-373. DOI: 10.14515/monitoring.2018.3.20. (In Russ.).
Tartakovskaya I.N. (2011). Igor Kon and Russian Gender Studies: “Here, as with Other Questions, I am Dealing with Intellectual Bridge-building”. Sociological Journal. No 2. P. 138-143. (In Russ.).