''The generation that has grown up has no career prospects and jobs. What will they do...''

Interview with sociologist and dissident Boris Kagarlitsky. Part 1. Where does youth aggression come from?

''The generation that has grown up has no career prospects and jobs. What will they do...'' Photo: Maksim Platonov

Well-known sociologist and dissident Boris Kagarlitsky has recently visited Kazan to meet with social scientists. During his visit, he gave an extensive interview to the correspondent of Realnoe Vremya. The discussion with the guest turned out to be very rich, so our online newspaper offers the readers the first part of the conversation, in which Kagarlitsky told about the reasons of children aggression, new young generation and a niche that Navalny has carved out.

An epidemic of aggressiveness

Mr Kagarlitsky, here in Kazan you spoke about the problems of education. Terrible events have recently taken place in schools of Perm, Buryatia, they were preceded by the acts of aggression in other regions. What induces teenagers to such violence?

It is wrong to narrow all the aggression down just to school students. We just highlighted separate events in schools. If we look at the whole range of the chronicles of domestic violence, we will see that it is quite rich and heavyweight. Almost every day we find out about something: someone set a Christmas tree on fire, stabbed a neighbour, drowned himself, burned a house with the tenants. It can be anything. People with axes, pitchforks, knives and irons in Russia are many. We should consider school aggression not as a separate phenomenon, but as a total household increase of aggressiveness in Russia. This state of household irritation of people against each other, the world, themselves has reached schools. If earlier we read that someone with a hangover stabbed a neighbour, we thought it was normal. But when a school student comes and tries to kill his deskmate, then it goes beyond the norm. But in fact, it's part of the same household aggression.

But before it was adults stubbing each other, not schoolchildren.

Household aggression is getting younger. A particular phenomenon extends to a wider range of people, younger ages. The reasons should be sought not in education but in society in general. I do not deny a crisis in education (I have repeatedly spoken about the serious crisis in schools), but I wouldn't link these specific incidents with it. The crisis in education has been for more than 10 years in the acute phase, and it does not mean that school children immediately began to take the axes. Two or three cases throughout the country, even happened in a row, it is, of course, already a tendency. But if not active media coverage of these events, we probably wouldn't perceive them this way.

But the main central TV channels said almost nothing about this.

It merely enhances the media effect. If something is not covered on Channel One, it is a sign that the news is important. There is a small, constant, narrowing category of people, which in absolute figures is large, but not throughout the country, that limits their information sources only by television. As a rule, it is elderly people residing in depressed areas. But now, even in the villages there is the Internet. And most importantly, part of the population who watches only television, at the same time, is extremely susceptible to rumours. Paradoxically, they have their own alternative channel of information, which is not technological. It is less manageable than the Internet. Already in the Soviet Union the authorities began to fear that the rumors became a powerful factor of public opinion. The more the television was controlled, the more people were becoming more pliable for the most incredible, wild, crazy rumours. So, people watching the television and not using the Internet have alternative sources anyway. The fact that the central channel reported nothing, but the Internet did, could give an additional effect because people exaggerate the scale themselves. They say, ''the government conceals something. On my god, what's going on around.''

Household aggression is getting younger. A particular phenomenon extends to a wider range of people, younger ages. The reasons should be sought not in education but in society in general

The main reason should be sought not in education, but in the general psychological state of Russian society, which is very bad. It is a psychological effect that has been achieved including through the forced stability against the background of degradation. Stability against the background of comfort (nothing changes, but it is comfortable) is a pleasant condition because you can be relaxed, you are harmless in this state. Like fat cats: they do not catch mice, they lie, they are given food, they sit on the stove — harmless creatures. When the situation continuously deteriorates, and you have more and more current household problems, while you are being in a socially stable situation, you understand that nothing will change and everything will always be bad, your stress is increasing. Such stability of deterioration and inactivity leads to stress and frustration.

Erich Fromm wrote that the state of constant frustration leads to aggression. He believed that the accumulation of problems that are not addressed and are beyond your control can be compensated in two ways: aggression and aggressive consumption (shopaholism). In Russia there is also a third way — drinking — national ''doping''. These are all forms of degradation. But for the society, people who buy unnecessary things are harmless. After all, it is better than going with the axe to the neighbour. The peculiarity of people who are in economic and social crisis is that channels of household compensation are also beginning to ''overheat'': you have less money to buy things, you have less free time to do such things.

There's always money for cheap alcohol.

Alcohol in this sense is a more problematic thing. If the consumption is not associated with physical aggression, alcohol does not eliminate physical aggression, on the contrary — it can encourage. Alcohol and drugs are not the best solution.

That is, we need to consider the problem in general, to tell about the socio-psychological frustration and as a special case to state that it has reached the teenagers. We don't know how to consider the mental epidemics. In the case with schools, there are clear signs of such epidemics. But the issue has not been studied. The psychological literature that I know does not explain this. We know how the viral epidemic occurs, but it is unclear how psychological does. Some scholars describe the situation in Germany at the end of 1920 — beginning of 1930s as a psychological epidemic. People with the advent of the Nazis to power suddenly began to change, began to imitate the worst examples. Some burgher was not an antisemite-riot before, but suddenly he started to smash Jewish stores because a burgher-neighbour did. It begins to acquire the character of an epidemic wave. I have not found in literature where it would be explained.

We also have it like an epidemic process: it happened in one place, then in another, and other. People repeat, aggravating, the same type of behaviour. That is, there's a channel for spread of the epidemic. Why and how this happens, let the psychologists figure out.

One should very carefully describe the behaviour of a teenager based on social conditions of the family because it is only one factor that affects behaviour. A stronger factor is generational one

''Our generation is different''

Today it is accepted to divide students into those who sympathize with crime (A.U.E.), Navalny, hipsters…

The teenagers who made a serious damage in Ulan-Ude were from wealthy complete families. One should very carefully describe the behaviour of a teenager based on social conditions of the family because it is only one factor that affects behaviour. A stronger factor is generational one. Teenagers, young people are not fully socialized in the class understanding. That is why young people are distinguished into a separate category — they are not fully socialized: in profession, in classroom. The person who has worked for 10 years at a factory sees himself or herself as a worker. The person who has worked for 10 years in the office — the office has formed his or her consciousness. If to be in a particular environment for a long time, it produces a certain type of consciousness and socialization. The interest of this group becomes your personal interest. The psychology and behaviour of young people who have worked in different places for a month or two are very flexible, varied and change frequently. Here, the generational factor becomes more important than the factor of social affiliation. They say that someone is from a family of workers, servants, bourgeoisie. But it is not necessarily that he or she identifies himself or herself with the family. On the contrary, he or she may want to escape from the family.

Where are all these revolutionaries from, who came from bourgeois or aristocratic families? These young people just wanted to escape from their environment. There is no turning back. Here in Kazan, the young man (Lenin — editor's note) participated in the meeting of 1887, and he was expelled from the university along with other students. He chose a certain way, and there was no way back. But it is pointless to deduce this story from what his parents or the social environment represented because we know that many other people who were in the same social environment went the other way. Pay attention to the fact that from neighbouring Simbirsk (now Ulyanovsk — editor's note) two families – the Kerenskys and the Ulyanovs — gave two heads of the government in a year. What is the matter — the specifics of the lives of these provincial families? It is hardly true. Here it is more not social factor but generational. Well, Vladimir Ulyanov's brother was executed. But Alexander Kerensky did not have such traumas in the family. Why did Alexander Kerensky and Vladimir Ulyanov find themselves in the revolutionary movement, though by different trajectories? Their parents in Simbirsk made the perfect career in the public education system. Here the key factor was the gap: the young people broke away from the usual trajectory of the family and went another path, which they themselves created. Therefore, it is important how young people perceive the surrounding reality. When people say that today young people are running around with axes and tomorrow they will take to the streets, it characteristically reflects the ideas of the authorities on what is truly dangerous and what is truly bad. A peaceful rally, in their opinion, is worse than a murder. But those who run around with axes and stub their neighbours will not take to the streets. It is two different channels to express dissatisfaction with life.

One person will get drunk and will fall in a quarry drunk or with wanton fury will start to stab people, and the other will take to the streets. I would explain it not by the level of education or even socialization, but different psychological types. Navalny rallies have not been thoroughly studied yet, but the sociology that we have shows a broad cross section: it is more important generational unity there than social origin. More educated people are more likely to think more rationally than to fall into some kind of aggression. But there are no guarantees. For example, the recent Moscow story, in which the killer and victim were students of elite universities. Here, the education did not prevent the atrocity.

When people say that today young people are running around with axes and tomorrow they will take to the streets, it characteristically reflects the ideas of the authorities on what is truly dangerous and what is truly bad. A peaceful rally, in their opinion, is worse than a murder

Do you agree with the Western model, when they speak about Generation Z, children are classified into different groups?

We have our own generation, our generation is different. It should be studied what are the current generations in Western Europe, the USA, and in our country. It hasn't evolved yet. In a year or two, it will be clear what a new generation is. Why did the younger generation take to the streets in the United States to support Bernie Sanders, and Jeremy Corbyn in England, but in our country this niche has been carved out by Navalny, who ideologically is completely different? Today we see that the new generation has grown, for whom there are no jobs and normal career prospects in general. And where and how they will go — we will see. This depends on many circumstances. If you look at American Internet, there are constant bickerings between the ''babyboomers'' and ''millenials''. The generation before ''babyboomers'' — the generation of the sixties — was seen as radical, free. Now, in the perception of young people who were born in the 2000s, who use the American Internet, those generation is associated with the image of hypocritical, sneaky, unscrupulous careerists. From the point of view of the ''babyboomers'', the new generation is irresponsible, aggressive. We do not have such inter-generational bickering in our country.

To be continued

By Timur Rakhmatullin. Photo: Maksim Platonov