|что говорят читатели
||[Oct. 27th, 2015|11:57 am]
С момента выхода в свет моей книги прошло пять месяцев, и начали появляться академические рецензии на нее. Хотя книга про авторитаризм, первая по времени рецензия вышла в журнале Democratization:
"Vladimir Gel’man needs no introduction to students of Russian politics. Over the last two decades he has been one of the most prolific, as well as one of the most insightful, Russian students of Russian politics. His new book is a synthesis of his research into the last two decades of Russian political development. As is usually the case with Gel’man’s work, the book combines a deep knowledge of Russian political actors, processes, and institutions with a careful reading of relevant comparative politics literatures. Gel’man wears his learning lightly and the book is very readable. The result is a book that is both one of the best short introductions available to Russian political development and one of the most sophisticated.
Gel’man’s account of the development of Russian authoritarianism is agent centred. Politics for Gel’man is essentially a struggle between agents to gain, wield, and hold on to power. Formal and informal institutions create the rules of the game of politics and establish sanctions for actors who break them. Regimes are particular arrangements of rules and consolidation of a regime occurs when actors accept the rules that define a regime, or at least where those actors that object to them do not have the capacity to change them. It will not be a surprise that Gel’man’s definition of democracy that follows from this is the existence of elections and the acceptance of loss in elections by losers. Non-democratic or authoritarian regimes (Gel’man uses the terms interchangeably) have a harder time achieving regime consolidation because they lack the self-correction mechanism that elections can provide. Authoritarian leaders have to avoid social and elite selectorate defection and revolt.
This is a simple enough schema but the advantage of it, as Gel’man recognizes, is, first, that it frees us of the crude moralizing about the wickedness of Russian politicians that characterizes so much commentary on Russian politics. Second, it denies that Russia’s move towards authoritarianism after the collapse of the USSR was structurally preordained by culture or any historical legacy such as the socio-economic structure it inherited from the Soviet Union. What doomed Russia’s brief experiment with democracy was not economics or Russian political culture but the fact that it came out of the USSR with weak institutional and political constraints on rulers’ power-maximization strategies. Gel’man works from these premises to criticize what he calls the “pessimist” and “optimist” schools of Russian political studies. Both of these schools are at heart structuralist. The pessimists see Russia as doomed due to history and culture that create a path-dependent development towards non-democracy. Optimists see Russia as merely having deviated slightly from the modernization-to-democracy path. Gel’man is not unoptimistic about Russia’s future in the longer term – the last section of the book is subtitled “Russia will be free” – but sees the failures of Russian democracy as being caused by the lack of constraints on politicians so that there is no magic modernization bullet that will eventually dissolve Russia’s authoritarianism and put it back on some “correct” developmental track.
Most of the book deals with how the lack of constraints – domestic and international – shaped Russia’s political development at a series of “critical junctures”, including the collapse of the USSR, the struggle between parliament and President Yeltsin, the adoption of the 1993 “presidential” constitution, Yeltsin’s succession and Putin’s rise, and Putin’s return to office and the conflict with Ukraine and seizure of Crimea. Each of these junctures is analysed in terms of how power maximization was constrained – and latterly not constrained – by elite conflict, international factors, social forces, and actors’ ideologies. In brief, social forces have never been a strong constraint on the development of leaders’ powers in Russia because of first the underdevelopment of Russian civil society and later the performance legitimacy of the Putin regime as the economy grew in the 2000s. International constraints have been only minimally effective in shaping Russian development. Elite conflict limited Yeltsin’s accumulation of power to some degree because of the divisions within the elite coalition that Yeltsin built to support his presidency. These conflicts were brought under control under Putin so that the limited constraints on power that had existed under Yeltsin were dissolved. This facilitated the creation of greater control over elites at both regional and national level through control of elections in particular. Ideological factors have produced weak constraints on politicians in different ways at different times. The decision to pursue economic reform in 1992 rather than develop democratic political structures, for example, sharpened the struggle for power in the early 1990s and helped ensure that this struggle prompted Yeltsin to try to secure unfettered power.
Gel’man’s argument is a strong and plausible one. Of course, structural factors creep back into the explanation to some extent to support Gel’man’s actor-centred account. It is hard, for example, to explain the lack of social constraints on rulers without thinking about the legacies of Soviet economic structures and practices and how they interacted with economic reform to produce Russia’s dysfunctional political capitalism. Overall, however, Gel’man is right to say that these things are not necessarily always of primary causal importance, and to focus on actors and institutions. As Gel’man shows in his judicious concluding chapter on Russia’s future, these will be what determines which of several paths Russia is to take.
(Authoritarian Russia. Analyzing post-Soviet regime changes, by Vladimir Gel’man, Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015, xiv + 208 pp., notes, index, ISBN 0-8229-6368-X)
Neil Robinson, University of Limerick
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