MR. ZULACK: I'm not saying only, but it's something we never really talk about, you know.
PROF. PISTOR: It's an important factor.
MR. ZULACK: We talk about Reagan taking down the Soviet Union. How much nonsense is that? It has absolutely nothing to do with the crumbling, which had to do with demographic and political and other factors.
PROF. BURBANK: I would like to suggest, though, that there's no way that we could argue that the 1991 collapse has to do with a kind of welling up of discontent from below, a kind of revolutionary model. Those political scientists, who predicted that the USSR would come apart on national grounds, ethnic grounds, and so on, were wrong. It didn't happen that way. There were incidents. But it was not a welling-up and a huge popular rebellion; otherwise you would have had enormous civil war, which is actually what intellectuals feared.
Elite desires and the inadequacy of this particular system for a style of life for elites scattered throughout the system, I think, are profoundly important for 1991. We've talked a bit today about a divide between popular uses of the law, or popular attitudes, low-level participatory justice, and this question of how elites regard the law, the economy, and so on. I think elite desires and elite familiarity with Western lifestyles, ways of doing things — and including Western vocabulary — such as human rights and so on, all those factors are extremely important for why the system, so to speak, broke down.
PROF. WORTMAN: As a footnote to this: I don't know if any of you saw Paul McCartney's concert on Red Square, where the Russian population — well, there was an introduction of some young man who said, “The Beatles brought down the Soviet Union.” And then I went to Russia, and being a scholar, of course, I pooh-poohed this and said, “They even said the Beatles brought down the Soviet Union.” My Russian friends who had been there said, “That's right! They did!” So the cultural influences that were percolating in were enormous. If there's one thing that I think brought down the Soviet Union, it's the Afghan war. Anyone who goes into Afghanistan suffers defeat. I think we should take a lesson from that.
PROF. NELSON: I want to make a pitch for demography in the United States. Religious variation has been an important support for local power from the seventeenth century on. The British government in New Hampshire in the 1680s really tries to put the Puritan Congregational Church out of existence. New Hampshire is a very small colony. It is arguably feasible that one can re-Anglicanize them. The crown, Charles II, after all — the Puritans had chopped off his father's head. So it's understandable that he would like to get rid of Puritans. He didn't start in Massachusetts first, where there are a lot of them. He starts in New Hampshire. But that reverberates for the next eighty years in Massachusetts history. A lot of the insistence of the people of Massachusetts on preserving these local forms of control is a fear that if they don't do it, their religion is going to be undermined by the imperial government back in London, and religion matters to them.
Early nineteenth century in America is this explosion of Protestant evangelical religion — the emergence of sect after sect after sect, all of which insist on the importance of independence as the way to heaven. As a practical matter, nobody has the resources or is willing to expend the resources to put these folks out of existence. So what do you do with Mormons? You ship them out to Utah, you let them go to Utah. What do you do with Shakers? You let them form their own little communities and die out.
Then, the other place of enormous religious diversity is New York City in the early twentieth century. There are a lot of people who are deeply anti-Catholic and deeply anti-Semitic, but the fact is that these people are here; these people get educated; these people have skills as a result. And in the long run they vbecome a part of the system, but always a part of the system with a deep commitment to not letting the state interfere too much with their religious beliefs. Religion and religious diversity, and the insistence of religious people — who remain probably more numerous in this country than anywhere else — on not letting government interfere too much has been an important force for preserving local power and restricting central bureaucracies.
There's a woman at Penn — Sally Gordon — doing a fascinating book now on religion in the late twentieth century. She's got one wonderful chapter on prison authorities and the Nation of Islam. Even in prison, where you've got enormous coercive control over people, it turns out that the prison authorities just could not control the black Muslims. It's easier to let the Nation of Islam have some religious freedom in jail, rather than to try to control them.
MR. ROTHSTEIN: Thank you very much, everybody, for coming.