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Nikolay Konstantinovich Mikhaylovsky (Russian: Никола́й Константи́нович Миха́йловский) (27 November [O.S. 15 November] 1842, Meshchovsk–10 February [O.S. 28 January] 1904, Saint Petersburg) was a Russian publicist, literary critic, sociologist and one of the theoreticians of the Narodniki movement.
The school of thinkers he belonged to became famous in Russia in the 1870s and 1880s as exponents of political and economic reforms. He was a contributor to the Otechestvennye Zapiski (“The Annals of the Fatherland”) from 1869 until it was suppressed in 1884. He became coeditor of Severny Vestnik (“The Northern Messenger”) in 1873, and from 1890 until his death in 1904 he was eoeditor of Russkoye Bogatstvo (“Russian Treasure”) with Vladimir Korolenko. His collected writings were published (Petrograd, 1913).
In his works Nikolay Mikhaylovsky developed the idea of the relationship between the hero and the masses (crowd). Contrary to the ideas popular among revolutionary-minded people of the late 19th-early 20th centuries that an individual having strong character or talent is able to fulfil incredible things and even change of the course of history in the articles ‘Heroes and Crowd’ (1882) and some other Mikhaylovsky presents a new theory and shows that an individual not necessarily means an outstanding individual, but any individual who by chance finds himself within certain circumstances in the lead or just ahead of the crowd. Mikhaylovsky emphasizes that at definite moments an individual can give a substantial strength to a crowd (through his emotional and actions), and so the whole event can acquire a special power. Thus, the role of an individual depends on its psychological influence is reinforced by mass perception
Mikhaylovsky regarded the historical process as a progression of social environment differentiation, eventually leading to the emergence of individuality. «The struggle for individuality» was seen as a matter of environment adapting to personality, in contrast to the Darwinist notion of struggle for existence, where an individual adapts to the environment. Criticizing Darwinists for the transference of biological laws onto societal development, Mikhailovsky thought it necessary to expand Darwinism with: 1)K. von Baer’s law, in compliance with which organisms develop, proceeding from the simple to the complex; 2) solidarity principle, at the base of which lies simple cooperation. Mikhaylovsky saw the utmost criterion of social progress in obtaining the ideal of a perfect, harmoniously developed person. If simple cooperation is a social union of equals with similar interests and functions and “solidarity” as the main attribute of the society in question, then in the case of complex cooperation there exists a highly developed division of labor, whose major attribute is the “struggle” of interrelated groups. In his view, a society might reach an advanced stage of development, and yet belong to the lower type of organization, as, for instance, was the case with European capitalism based on division of labor and complex cooperation. Hence Mikhaylovsky concluded that the peasant Russia lagged behind the capitalist West according to the stage of development, but surpassed it if judged by the type of organization. Furthermore, like the majority of the nineteenth-century Russian thinkers, he attached particular significance to the obshchina (traditional peasant community), a unique trait distinguishing Russia from other countries.
- James H. Billington, Mikhailovsky and Russian Populism (1958)
- George Douglas Howard Cole, 'A History of Socialist Thought, vol. III, part 1' (1956)
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Mikhailovski, Nikolai Konstantinovitch". Encyclopedia Americana.
- Mikhaylovsky, N. K. 1998. Heroes and Crowd: Collected Works in Sociology. 2 vols. St. Petersburg: Aleteya. In Russian.
- Grinin, Leonid 2010. The Role of an Individual in History: A Reconsideration. Social Evolution & History, Vol. 9 No. 2 (pp. 95–136). P. 107
- Efremenko D., Evseeva Y. Studies of Social Solidarity in Russia: Tradition and Modern Trends. // American Sociologist, v. 43, 2012, no. 4, pp. 349-365. – NY: Springer Science+Business Media.
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