Lenin’s Notion of Class as a Case of Political Conceptualization

Lenin’s Notion of Class as a Case of Political Conceptualization

Chernysh M.F.

Dr. Sci. (Sociol.), Corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, First Deputy Director for Research and Education at the Federal Center of Theoretical and Applied Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia mfche@yandex.ru

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Chernysh M.F. Lenin’s Notion of Class as a Case of Political Conceptualization. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. 2020. No 4. P. 15-26


Vladimir Lenin is known primarily as a practical revolutionary, his contribution, however, to radical transformation of society involves introduction of considerable changes into the class concept. He treated class as a social group that stands apart from other social groups due to its employment and its own specific world outlook. Classes are heterogeneous social groups that make it impossible to solidify them in the struggle for social change. Real, not theoretical classes, are disposed to compromises and appeasement. In a country with a backward agricultural economy in which society was under constant pressure from the authoritarian regime, real changes could only be effected by way of mobilizing a small, unwavering minority, organized into a network of underground local groups. Small militant party with cadres capable to work underground should be placed at the center of the network. Lenin believed that the party must stay in power even after the revolution in order to withstand the pressure of petty bourgeois elements. The Leninist concept of class as an ideal type with a set of social interests maintained by a small group of revolutionaries dovetailed with the reality of an agrarian society in which socialist modernization could only be effected through utmost centralization and mobilization. Lenin’s concept of constructed classes was losing its relevance in the Soviet society that was evolving towards modernity.

Marxism; classes; class interests; class differentiation; mobilization; revolution


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