Norms and Values
Values ​​and Social (De)Mobilisation

Deep value and behavioural transformations are becoming more and more significant against the backdrop of the “big time buzz” of current events. To what extent they will affect the balance between the psychological mobilisation and demobilisation of society, only time will tell, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Oleg Barabanov.

Recently, the Valdai Discussion Club held a discussion titled “The Global Ideological and Spiritual Landscape and Russia’s Place on the New Values Map of the World”. The participants discussed the transformation of value attitudes and priorities in various societies since February 24, the impact of geopolitics on value gaps both between Russia and Western countries, and within individual societies.

This theme of the impact of military conflicts on the transformation of values in society has been the focus of attention of the Valdai Club before. At the time, we primarily looked at historical examples. One of them was the Valdai Club report on World War II, which explored how images of the conflict are reflected in modern culture and historical memory. This report focused on the idea of the opposition between “heroic” and “non-heroic” (or “post-heroic”) societies, and the fundamental difference between them in the perception of military conflicts, as well as in the level of a person’s emotional and value involvement in warfare. The experts also concluded that in modern society, with its consumerist attitudes, social demobilisation, and postmodern irony regarding the heroism of the past, the role of such a “post-heroic” perception of values may well increase.

Now, of course, the question of wartime values has shifted from a purely historical plane to urgent, contemporary reality. This poses fundamentally new axiological challenges to man and society, sometimes necessitating a sharp rethinking of past values and behavioural attitudes. The dynamics of the transformation of value approaches will ultimately determine the attitude of both individual and various social groups to what is happening.

Moreover, it is obvious that the background of current events cannot but have a serious impact on the dynamics of value attitudes within society itself. As noted in the aforementioned Valdai Club discussion, the “big times buzz” is becoming a major factor in determining any individual strategies now. In this regard, almost any previous value orientations must inevitably be verified through the prism of ongoing events and transformed accordingly.

The key element of this new value dynamic is the obvious way out of the comfort zone. Military activity, sanctions pressure and growing problems in the global economy are directly eroding this existing zone of individual and social comfort for almost everyone. At the same time, in our opinion, it is quite legitimate to consider the desire for comfort as an undoubted value of our consumer age. Within the framework of a post-heroic society, it is this value that determines many patterns of social behaviour, expectations and demands.

Now this comfort zone, obviously, no longer exists. It is quite possible that that former, familiar comfort will not be there for a very long time; perhaps it will never return. Here, let’s be honest, nostalgia for the lost comfort becomes a completely natural reaction of post-heroic society. This nostalgia over time itself becomes a kind of a new value, for lack of anything else in a psychologically demobilised society. Such nostalgia sometimes comes combined with the no-less-natural irritation of the post-heroic society about this. The question “Who did this all bother?”, in our opinion, quite accurately characterises the reaction to what is happening in this logic. We admit to ourselves directly, many of us have asked ourselves this question, if not out loud.

Now this social demobilisation is at a crossroads. It has two paths. To passively adapt to what is happening, or to change and essentially mobilise. Big Time Hum leaves no other choice. In a situation where the old world is irrevocably replaced by a new one (no matter whether it is better or worse), this is always the case. Here we can recall the Marxist thesis “social being determines consciousness.” In this regard, in my subjective opinion, for us, the inhabitants of the 21st century, the value and behavioural reactions of Russian society, for example, after 1917, become more understandable.

Furthermore, any war, against the background of a psychologically demobilised majority of society, quickly forms highly socially mobilised strata of supporters and opponents of a military conflict. The stratum of opponents, according to the very logic of wartime, is sharply pushed to the periphery, beyond the boundaries of both the geographical and informational space of society. As for the stratum of supporters, the situation is more interesting and revealing. They enter into the information field abruptly and on a large scale, including filling the gaps in the understatement of official information, both about current reports from the battlefield, and about their comprehension. Namely, this filling of information gaps, in the conditions of a military conflict, becomes especially in demand for society. Furthermore, they generate new meanings and values, and at a very fast pace. They directly and openly declare themselves the core of a new civil society, as the core of a new elite — in immanent opposition to the former consumerist and value-demobilised elites.

As a result, under such conditions, a social phenomenon is very quickly forming (and the current conflict is no exception), which can be called the “ethics of military correspondents”. These are the ethical and value orientations of civic activism aimed at contributing in every possible way to the victory of one’s state in the conflict and openly fighting attempts (actual or imaginary, it is a separate question) to obscure the drive to win in various kinds of shady behind-the-scenes agreements and deals. This new stratum is beginning to have an ever-increasing impact on the demobilised majority of society, and also seeks to have a significant impact on the state, on the adoption of certain political decisions.

All these social value transformations, of course, do not occur in society independently of other spheres of human activity. They have an undeniable impact on the relationship between society and the state. In those cases where the preservation of social demobilisation may be, in one way or another, a state strategy aimed at ensuring long-term stability, additional nuances appear. Here such civil pro-war activism, the “ethics of military correspondents”, can be perceived dialectically, both on the part of the state and on the part of the majority of society. The participants in the aforementioned Valdai Club discussion spoke in this connection about the contradiction between the continuing desire for comfort among the majority in society and the “military austerity”.

In any case, deep value and behavioural transformations are becoming more and more significant against the backdrop of the “big time buzz” of current events. To what extent they will affect the balance between the psychological mobilisation and demobilisation of society, only time will tell.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.