Political Analysis of Scarecrow

Craig McCaughrin, Washington and Lee University

The problem under study is the anomaly whereby a social aggregate satisfies the private interests of individual members--at the cost of the public interest (if not messianic mission) of its entire membership--despite sanctions against such self-serving tendencies. In particular, the problem is to explain and repair this tendency--a tendency which in political aggregates is called embourgeoisment or de-radicalization.

The "method" for resolving this problem is to apply collective action analysis to one vivid example of this problem: Rolan Bykov and Vladimir Zheleznikov's screenplay Chuchelo (Scarecrow). In particular, collective action analysis (a variant of game theory) reveals the necessary and sufficient conditions hereby sanctions not only fail to deter but outrightly facilitate the replacement of public goals with private interests (in the screenplay, a student work-force comprised of Soviet 6th-graders from the mid-1980s). Attention centers on four such sanctions--force, boycotts, effigy-burning and blacklisting (as a traitor).

The "import" of this inquiry is two-fold: 1) It demonstrates the synergistic relationship between the humanities and social sciences in jointly addressing an anomaly represented in the former and analyzed through the latter discipline. 2) Assuming that the screenplay allegorizes the Soviet state's own later period, then the resolution of the embourgeoisement problem may also help resolve the problem of the Soviet state's own de-radicalization over time.