leshukova, polina


Power Vertical or Competition?  Power Elite Strategies and Structuring of Civil Activism in the «Operated Democracy» in Modern Russia

Panel abstract: The category of competition seems to be very fruitful for description of democratic transit in Russia in long-term perspective including the president Putin’s administrative reform and the rising of protest movement since December 2011. There are two basic mental models, authoritarian and liberal, originated in Russian history and cultural tradition, which can be distinguished in political and social discourse. Their core distinction is the relation to the competition in a broad sense.

The authoritarian project relaunched in 2000 caused several closely connected tendencies, such as formation of ideocratic elite (highly integrated, narrowly differentiated,  Burton M., Higley J., 2001), fading of opposition and suppression of any competition. Further promotion of this scenario provoked the protest activity which was focused on claim of political competition.

The panel is aimed to present several investigations united by the problem of democratic transition in Russia in the context of re-centralization of power. All presented researches cover some crucial aspects of power elite dynamics and civil activism in the perspective of increasing or decreasing of competition.

The investigations dealing with power elite are focused on the influence, deliberate or inadvertent, of elites upon the extent of competition in society.

The influence of the federal elite on the inter-party competition is considered through legal norms, informal practices and preconditions to competition. Transition to proportional elections in the absent of full-fledged party system, increase of political parties activity barriers, administrative control over elections, as well as domination of non-democratic recruitment models during last ten years had been resulted with destruction of interparty competition and competitive environment.

Study of regional elite strategies operates with rich empirical material.

St-Petersburg politico-administrative elite, which represented an established informal institution, enters in a new stage because of the “return” of democratic opposition in the representative body after the December 2011 regional elections. One can note, that the decision-making process is now marked a little bit more by the competition discourse, but neutralization of opposition remains the mainstream strategy within politico-administrative elite sector.

Having much in common with their “western” analogues the Russian elite clubs differ from them in some important features. The membership in such club doesn’t serve a businessman as a reputation certificate, the clubs don’t aspire to publicity. Economic competition is carried out more likely by means of closed administrative channels, than in an open public space.

The request for competition in society is formulated within the civil network which also produces potential leaders for political competition. So investigations of social activism are of great importance (Carine Clément). The study of civil activism is devoted to a problem of social movements formation. The method of involved observation is used to distinguish possible models of interaction between different autonomous groups and their core activists.

Synthesis of results reveals development of two complicated processes, decreasing of competition in society, connected with stabilization of power elite on the one hand and rising of social request for competition, associated with civil mobilization from below, on the other hand.

Friday 26 October 09:00-11:00 Panels VII, Panel 18 Power Vertical or Competition? Power Elite Strategies and Structuring of Civil Activism in the "Operated Democracy" in Modern Russia (Hall 7)