Changes. Farewell to everyday life

September 23, 2023

It is natural for people to long for change and at the same time to fear it. Apparently, they are afraid of changes more often and more strongly than they want them — just because changes anyway lead to a break with our everyday life and everything that we associate with it: established habits, relations with the people around us (even if they do not completely satisfy us).

The Austrian and American sociologist Alfred Schütz called all this the "life-world", which, in fact, makes the reality in which a person lives: "I am always in a world whose "reality" does not raise questions for me and is self-evident. I was born in it, and I take it for granted that this world existed before." The destruction of this world is seen as something that threatens our very existence: "We must act in the life-world, if we want to preserve our own lives."

This peculiarity of consciousness makes us to believe in the inviolability of the existing order because "it has always been so" — people are convinced that morning will come after night, they will have breakfast, take their children to school, go to work, return home at the end of the day, have dinner and go to bed to start all over again tomorrow.

It would be nice if people believed in the immutability of only those things and situations that they like. But quite often they are also convinced that what they don't like will remain the same, just because it was like that before. Even if we are dissatisfied with reality, we somehow get used to it and at least know how to behave in a familiar situation.

Any defects of society and people, manifestations of injustice, cruelty, any crimes, from this point of view, may continue to exist only because "they have always existed", and the desire to remedy these defects can lead to even greater injustice and even graver crimes. That is, everyday life acts as a "justification" of reality and existing imperfect moral norms.

No one knows for sure what will happen if the existing living conditions change. Therefore, in human society and human consciousness, there is a constant struggle between the desire for change and the fear of change, the attempt to protect oneself from the possible risks brought by these changes.

It is also obvious that people are not in the same situation — some have more reasons to consider it prosperous or at least acceptable, some have fewer. In addition, different people have different human capital (intelligence, health, knowledge), which allows them not only to adapt more or less to new conditions but also to create these new social conditions and a new state of society by themselves.

Those who possess such human capital (the so-called creative class) are the driving force of change; those who do not are social outsiders who are in a disadvantage situation now, but in the event of significant social upheavals stand to lose even what they have.

Therefore, the main opponent of changes is the paradoxical union of those who may lose their privileges and those who supposedly have nothing to lose, but fear an unclear future much more than a joyless present.

In the Russian Empire of the early 20th century, these social strata made the social base of the so-called "Black Hundred" — a movement directed against social changes and liberalization of social life (the political embodiment of this movement was created by conservative circles, the "Union of the Russian People").

The then Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Russian Empire Sergei Witte (who, by the way, represented the liberal circles of the then Russian political elite) described this party as "a party of wild and cowardly despair":

"It consists of a dark, wild mass, its leaders are political scoundrels and secret accomplices from the court and various, mostly titled nobles, whose all well-being is associated with the powerlessness of the people, whose slogan is "we are not for the people, but the people are for our belly"... Most of the right... are such scoundrels who, under the guise of protecting conservative principles, under the guise of protecting the monarchy and the Russian fundamentals, pursue only their personal interests and are not ashamed of anything in their actions, even resort to murder and all kind of meanness."

As you can see, not much has changed in Russia since than. The idea of "eternity and immutability" of the existing regimes is a fundamental principle of conservative mentality and the basis of conservative ideologies. The Chairman of the Russian State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, stated: "After Putin, there will be Putin. Everything that will happen after President Putin will happen according to the patterns he laid."

Within such an ideology, social change is associated with chaos and disorder. The ideologist of "Putinism" Vladislav Surkov scares his compatriots with the "ghost of instability": "Chaos (disorder) never recedes. On the contrary, it almost always grows. Accordingly, a chronic decline in order and stability is observed everywhere, against the background of progressive turbulence and decay." But in his opinion, it is too early to fall into despair — there is a way out: "Social physics and political dynamics offer a recipe for establishing and maintaining the world order — strong statehood." That is, in Russia, "strong statehood" is a prescription for treatment of all social problems.

But Surkov is worried that chaos and entropy inevitably arise even under a "powerful political regime." What to do with it in this case:

"Social entropy is very toxic. It is not recommended to work with it at home. It needs to be taken somewhere far away. Export for disposal on foreign territory. Exporting chaos is not new. Relieving internal tension...through external expansion. For centuries, the Russian state, with its harsh and sedentary political interior, was preserved solely thanks to the tireless striving beyond its borders. It has long forgotten how, and most likely never knew how to survive in other ways. For Russia, constant expansion is not just one of the ideas, but the true essence of our historical existence. Imperial technologies are still effective today, when empires have been renamed superpowers. The Crimean consensus is a vivid example of the consolidation of society due to the chaos in a neighbouring country."

Ideologists like Surkov assumed that "chaotization of neighbouring countries" would occur without strong consequences for Russian society, because they were well aware that the "disruption of everyday life" through war destroys the foundations of conservative ideology, which is designed to protect the stability and immutability of the conditions of existence.

In Ukraine, in contrast to the Russian conservative tradition, the request for modernization almost always prevailed, and the political elites were simply forced to declare the ideologues of changes and reforms — let's recall the re-election slogans of the Rukh ("Time for change!"), Yushchenko ("I believe, I know, we can!"), Poroshenko ("Live in a new way"), Zelenskyy ("Let's get the better of them together").

Not only the reluctance of the elites to implement them but also the general "inertia of everyday life", due to which the will to change was weakly expressed even among the majority of ordinary citizens, became an obstacle to the implementation of these changes. This inertia, in particular, manifested itself in "nostalgia for the past", reluctance to change something, even compared to the Soviet times. Say, in 2013, assessing how fair Soviet society was and how fair modern Ukrainian society is on a scale from 0 to 10, where "0" means "extremely unfair" and "10" — "completely fair", the respondents rated the level of justice in the Soviet society higher than in the modern Ukrainian (6.2 and 4.0 points, respectively).

But the war changed everything, as it "compromised" everyday life — the pre-war everyday routine was destroyed, and the "new routine", that is, the everyday life of wartime naturally became so unbearable that few people wanted to "hold on" to it. What's more, no one wants to return to the "bright yesterday", understanding that "yesterday" was the prerequisite for what is happening today.

The desire to "preserve everyday life" was overnight replaced not just with the desire to "change everything" but with the confidence that these changes will certainly be implemented. While before the war, two-thirds of our fellow citizens believed that events were developing in a wrong direction, after the war started, the majority held the opinion that, on the contrary, things were moving in the right direction. 78% of Ukrainians share the opinion that the best times for our country will come in the future, and only 8% believe that they were in the past.

Nostalgia for Soviet realities has also dissipated: in 2023, the fairness of modern Ukrainian society is rated much higher (6.7 points on a scale from 0 to 10, while the Soviet one scored only 3.1 points).

And the end of the war is not associated with a return to the pre-war state, but with a radical break with the past. If someone fears that the Ukrainian society may get tired of the war — this will not happen, because such "fatigue" will mean a return to the past, and few people in Ukraine will agree to that.

The article builds on the results of public opinion polls conducted by the Razumkov Centre Sociological Service in 2013 and 2023.


Mykhailo Mischenko

Deputy Director, Sociological Service

Born in 1962 in Kyiv

Education: Taras Shevchenko Kyiv State University, Faculty of Philosophy (1984). Ph. D in Philosophy


1984 – 1990 — Sociology Department at the Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

1990 – 1998 — Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

1998 – 2003 — Ukrainian Institute of Social Research

February – September 2003 — Kyiv International Institute of Sociology

Since October 2003 — Deputy Director, Razumkov Centre Sociological Service

(044) 201-11-94