Easter, Gerald M.
Easter, Gerald M.
Male. Education: Boston College, B.A., 1981; Columbia University, M.A., 1986, Ph.D., 1992.
Office—Boston College, Political Science Department, 140 Commonwealth Ave., Chestnut Hill, MA 02467. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, historian, and educator. Columbia University, instructor, 1986-89; Boston College, assistant professor, 1999—, became associate professor of history. Georgetown University, visiting assistant professor, 1992-95; Miami University of Ohio, visiting assistant professor, 1995-97.
(Editor, with Stefanie Harter) Shaping the Economic Space in Russia: Decision Making Processes, Institutions, and Adjustment to Change in the El'tsin Era, Ashgate (Aldershot, Hampshire, England), 2000.
Contributor to periodicals and journals, including Europe-Asia Studies, World Politics, Russian Review, and Russian Regional Report. Contributor to books, including Toward a More Civil Society: The USSR under Mikhail Gorbachev, edited by W.G. Miller, Harper (New York, NY), 1989, and Collier's Encyclopedia, 1999.
Author and political historian Gerald M. Easter is an associate professor of history who teaches comparative politics. In Reconstructing the State: Personal Networks and Elite Identity in Soviet Russia, Easter takes up the task of rethinking and restructuring ideas about Soviet political reality in the wake of the fall of Soviet communism. He has examined in depth archives and other materials that were previously unavailable, one of the few scholars who have spent productive time "creating new, theoretically informed interpretations that exploit the wealth of information in previously inaccessible Soviet archives," noted Judith Kullberg in the American Political Science Review. Easter's resulting book is "one of the few attempts to apply a fresh approach to new sources of information," Kullberg remarked. "In laying out a possible path of inquiry, the book takes up the serious work of theoretical reconceptualization of Soviet politics."
Easter's study of the Soviet state starts with its formative years in the 1920s and 1930s through its ultimate collapse in the 1980s. He questions how the relatively weak Soviet state managed to expand its power and influence so rapidly and had such a profound effect on the people and politics of not only the Soviet region, but the world. For Easter, the relative advantages found in the strong Communist party, the use of secret police, and the widespread influence of social groups cannot fully explain the rapid Soviet rise. Easter theorizes that it was "personal networks within the party leadership" that most thoroughly and successfully "account for the growth in state capacity and the success of economic transformation," Kullberg stated. "According to his thesis, it was the personal connections among members of the same generation of this regional elite that allowed the new regime to succeed," noted Manfred Hildermeier in the Journal of Modern History. Easter supports his thesis with an in-depth analysis of the role played in Soviet development by twenty individuals who served as first secretary in regional administrations under Josef Stalin. This elite group shared many characteristics, including similar backgrounds with rise from poverty; war experiences; roles as underground party workers prior to the revolution; and strongly developed nationalist identities. When this informal network of Soviet elites became deeply involved with the burgeoning Soviet state, the network web began to form. Members assigned to positions of authority in turn appointed other members to positions in local and regional administrations. As this arrangement perpetuated itself, the Soviet state grew up around it, with the strong network of elites providing the frame and infrastructure upon which the state rapidly evolved. "Easter leaves little doubt that personal networks within the Soviet Communist Party existed and certainly puts forward enough evidence, much of it recently culled from party archives, to suggest that they played a key role in the formative period of state development," Kullberg concluded.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Political Science Review, December, 2000, Judith Kullberg, review of Reconstructing the State: Personal Networks and Elite Identity in Soviet Russia, p. 963.
Journal of Modern History, March, 2003, Manfred Hildermeier, review of Reconstructing the State, p. 229.
Boston College Web site, http://www.bc.edu/ (September 23, 2006), biography of Gerald M. Easter.