Book Review: Russia Without Putin

We need to think about ‘Russia without Putin’, argues Tony Wood, an editor of the New Left Review, in a recent book with that title. By this he doesn’t mean that we should be thinking about how to overthrow the Russian president, rather that we shouldn’t make Putin the centre of every discussion about Russia. Russia isn’t what it is because Putin made it so, Wood argues. He’s a symptom not a cause. Getting rid of him won’t change anything. Instead, if we want to understand modern Russia, we need to look at the ‘broader structural forces’ which have shaped it; i.e. we need ‘to learn to see Russia without Putin’.

wood

In his book, Wood attempts to do just that. His approach reflects his ideological position – socialists tend to downplay the role of individuals in history and stress instead the importance of ‘broader structural forces’. For Wood, the most important of those forces in Russia’s case is capitalism, or more precisely the specific form that capitalism has taken following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The defining feature of this form is a ‘symbiosis of state and business’. In recent years this has led to an ever-faster ‘revolving door’, as businessmen move into government and government officials move into business.  The result is a ‘blurring of the boundary between the state and the private sector’, resulting in rampant corruption and abuse of state authority in order to boost private profit. Neither Western sanctions nor the removal of Vladimir Putin will change this, Wood argues.

Wood’s leftist inclinations shape also his analysis of what needs to be done to rectify this situation. He rejects the idea that Russia’s problem is the maintenance of Soviet-era attitudes, the continued existence of Homo Sovieticus or sovok. In fact, he argues, the retention of Soviet institutions provided post-Soviet Russia with at least some form of, albeit inadequate, safety net on which citizens could fall back, thereby facilitating the transition to capitalism. I found this the least convincing part of Wood’s book, as Soviet social institutions, the remnants of the Soviet welfare state, and so on, are distinct things from the Soviet mentality, often associated with phenomena such as a poorly developed legal consciousness. I think that you can argue that the former have proven helpful while the latter hasn’t.

For Wood, however, the solution to Russia’s problems doesn’t lie in further dismantling of socialism in favour of Western economic liberalism. It’s clear that he isn’t much of a fan of the latter. And this leads him to criticize Russia’s ‘non-systemic’ opposition. It’s weakness, he says, lies in the fact that it is hopelessly divided. The liberals think purely in terms of regime change. But this has little appeal to the masses. What does concern the masses are economic and social injustices – pension reform, increases in truck drivers’ fees, unhappiness with garbage disposal, and the like. In Wood’s eyes, the opposition will never get anywhere until it can combine its political activism with social and economic activism against the injustices of the capitalist system. But instead of that, the Russian intelligentsia is determinedly neo-liberal in its economic approach. Aleksei Navalny, for instance, supports economic reforms of a sort which, Wood says, reflect ‘conventional Western social and economic policy’ and which ‘led the world into a pervasive crisis from which no exit is in sight. If put into practice in Russia, they would likely worsen the situation for millions.’ The liberals’ economic policies thus cut them off from ordinary people, and ensure their defeat.

Instead of aping Western liberal economics, what Russian oppositionists need to do, says Wood, is to challenge the very fundamentals of the capitalist economy in Russia and ‘in short, to envision an alternative model for Russia.’ At this point, I found myself thinking that Wood sounds an awful lot like the Russian conservatives I’ve studied for my forthcoming book. You can easily imagine someone like Sergei Glazyev saying all this. In fact, you don’t even have to imagine it, because it’s precisely what people like him do say. Glazyev, for instance, complains that, ‘Our economy has turned into a cannibalistic mechanism of production, with the offshore business-aristocracy taking money out of the country without paying taxes,’ concludes that Russia needs to reintroduce its “moral norms” into economic policy, and argues that, ‘At the foundation of our traditional worldview lies the imperative of social justice.’ So it’s not like there aren’t people in Russia saying this stuff and criticizing the fundamentals of the capitalist order. Yet, they don’t seem to enjoy a lot of support; their message doesn’t obviously resonate very far.

And that, it seems to me, poses a problem for Wood’s analysis. There’s a danger, I think, in supposing that your own ideological preferences are necessarily other peoples’ and that if only they changed their minds to coincide with yours, then their problems would be solved. There’s a lot to be said for Wood’s thesis that we need to look at deep structural issues not personalities. But I’m not at all convinced that the Russian people are ready to accept the idea of a fundamental revolution in their social-economic system. On the contrary, the continued popularity of Vladimir Putin suggests that they prefer stability, with all its many imperfections. Appeals for fundamental change aren’t likely to be attractive.

There’s a reason for that. And that is that things aren’t all bad under the present system. For all its attacks on prevailing stereotypes about Russia, ‘Russia without Putin’ ends up being just another form of negative reporting. It challenges the common narrative about why life in Russia sucks, but at the end of the day it agrees with the basic proposition that it does – just for different reasons from those normally suggested. There is undoubtedly much truth in the model of Russian society and government which Wood lays out, including the corrupt mixing of state and business. But while that model explains how individuals exploit state power for their personal advantage, it can’t explain the many things the Russian state does do which benefit its citizens (as any state which wishes to stay in power surely will do). Just look at the improvements in infrastructure (most notably in Moscow) in recent years. How do they fit into the model?

‘Russia without Putin’ is a valuable addition to the literature about contemporary Russia. Its approach is very original, and reflects a willingness to engage in deeper analysis than that commonly found among supposed Russian experts. And I found a lot to agree with in it. Certainly, the form capitalism has taken is important factor shaping modern Russian politics. But is it the be-all and end-all of it? I’m not so sure. And does the solution to Russia’s problems lie in a rejection of Western economic liberalism and a fundamental reshaping of the Russian economy? Again, I’m not so sure. I’m also not convinced that such a reshaping could have the appeal which Wood thinks it would. But then I’m an economic liberal and not a socialist, so that’s just my own biases at work. Put Tony Wood’s ‘Russia without Putin’ on your reading list, and decide for yourself.

30 thoughts on “Book Review: Russia Without Putin”

  1. “deep structural issues not personalities”

    Whoa, sounds like something I can relate to. So rare in the Anglosphere these days.

    I think you’re right that they don’t want any revolutionary changes; that’s my impression as well. And also that most people are satisfied with with the status quo. But perhaps only mildly satisfied. It’s hard to capture the zeitgeist (especially from outside, by watching youtube), but perhaps the ‘remember the 90s’ sentiment has worn off quite a bit. I wonder how comrade Lyttenburgh perceives it (the zeitgeist).

    As for mixing state and business, I have the impression that,currently, it’s the best, the latest and greatest, and the most promising model; see People’s Republic of China. Structurally speaking. How great exactly – that’s the function of how efficient the government is…

    Like

    1. PR: Wood attempts to do just that. [look at the ‘broader structural forces’] His approach reflects his ideological position – socialists tend to downplay the role of individuals in history and stress instead the importance of ‘broader structural forces’.

      MCJWhoa, sounds like something I can relate to. So rare in the Anglosphere these days.

      Irony alert: Not too long ago we had someone portraying himself like this; “I am tragically unique.” What people were tragically or not so tragically unique in the 20th century?

      Without irony alert. To what extend can the individual succeed outside basic structural frameworks?

      Like

    2. “I think you’re right that they don’t want any revolutionary changes; that’s my impression as well. And also that most people are satisfied with with the status quo. But perhaps only mildly satisfied. It’s hard to capture the zeitgeist (especially from outside, by watching youtube), but perhaps the ‘remember the 90s’ sentiment has worn off quite a bit. I wonder how comrade Lyttenburgh perceives it (the zeitgeist).”

      Short answer: there is no revolutionary situation as of now in Russia. The fact that Dear Author does not frame his narrative along such terminology, and only “wishes” for Russia to somehow turn socialist, makes me seriously doubt his “leftist” bona fides.

      Long answer:

      20 years ago the general attitude among most (thing 90+%) of Russians no matter what their background or (previously held) political views was “Only mass-scale executions via firing squads will save the Motherland” (rus. “Только массовые расстрелы спасут Родину”, easily googlable meme by now). All too often, in a typical situation when the whole family would gather together to watch the news on TV, the most often heard comment coming from the adults (yes, even from the members of the shy and conscientious intelligentsia) would be “Bastards! Shooting them won’t be enough!” (or even“Сталина на них нет!” (c)),

      Now? The common trope/expression is – “people are finally living, and not just trying to survive”. So-called “middle class” of the urbanites remains both miniscule and very heterogenic to amount to anything but the occasional squeak and/or a freak show. 1990s, not the Bloody Tyrant Putin, discredited any and all political forces – which did hardly anything to meliorate the situation. The popular in the West myth about “social contract” between Putin and “Russian society” is a lie – there were no such contract. The Westies did not come up with this clever invention, that explains the “passivity of Russians” – most likely, they just expropriated this meme from this or that Russian oppo, not sure which one at the moment. There could not be any such “contract”, because Putin had no one to sign it with – precious “society” (as defined by the Westies as a cohort of handshakbles) has no power in Russia and spends most of its time bitching and bickering for grants and handouts.

      Finally, the author once again betrays his fedora-tippin’/Champaign-sippin’/Audi-drivin’ background by wishing out loud for the Russian non systemic opposition to parasite on the social issues. Dear Author appears to be either insincere or delusional, if he doesn’t know how political parties come to being, organize themselves and conduct their activities in the bourgeois democracy – and which interests they ultimately serve. Good Ol’ nominally “liberal” YABLOKO is not really a Russian party to begin with – it’s a member of the pan-European alliance of ideologically similar parties, with perpetual money problems (yet which still survives thanks to mysterious and timely windfalls…) whose political program and agenda makes it unelectable in Russia. “Russian non-systemic opposition” parties are not just “pro-Western” or “pro-American” – they are for all intends and purposes Western and American, cartoonish, cargo-cultish so – because they paid by them. How can they change their agenda? Or what – Dear Author does not understand the basic premise of his own Western Democracy?

      Desire to have a Social Justness in Russia is both all permeating and vague. There is no (NO) “vanguard party”, that could possibly come forward and lead the people using such platform. As long as it remains so, there won’t be any change. I don’t like the United Russia party. Yet I have former classmates parents who became functionaries within it and who really won elections in the local territorial legislative bodies on the basis of making shit done. Of all the local parties in my neck of woods, they were the only ones who bothered with the “primaries” (I didn’t attend, of course – but members of my family did). Their overall performance remains “satisfactory” – and this is like an entire galaxy away from what we’ve been used to. Hell, last year to my utter shock I noticed that during the heaviest of the snowfalls they actually bothered to deploy heavy duty snow cleaning equipment. As a result, you could actually navigate across the streets. Trivial? Maybe for you. Not here though. “Mildly satisfied”, ultimately, means “satisfied”.

      “As for mixing state and business”

      The idea that this does not happens in the West (as Dear Author implies) is utterly moronic – see “lobbyism”. See #ElonMusk.

      Like

  2. Okay, this is freaky. Not the review, which is great as usual, but the fact that this is the *fourth* time you’ve put out a review for a book which I’d been concurrently reading for review. The others being Should We Fear Russia?, Putin Country, and The Long Hangover.
    Our reading interests overlap…a lot…

    Like

    1. Well, there are only so many books about Russia worth reading…

      It would be interesting to know if you concur with my assessment. Let me know when your review comes out.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There’s also some stuff in the book about foreign policy and current Russian-Western tensions, which I don’t discuss, and which JT perhaps could tackle in her review. Wood’s view is that the basic structural factor determining East-West relations is the imbalance of power – this deprives the West of incentives to integrate Russia into the European security system, causing what is a backlash from Russia, but one which is ‘improvised’ not a coherent plan of imperial expansion or any such thing. I didn’t have any serious issues with this part of the book, which is partly why I ignored it in the review (other reasons being lack of space and the fact that the analysis of international affairs is less novel and provocative than that of internal matters).

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Actually Paul, this happens rarely in this blog or any blog, but I found a book worth reading. Because one of my main laments is that due to its structural flows, Russia is unlikely to be able to elect a socialist government any time soon. It is only somewhat satisfying that it may be sooner than a return to the western liberal economics.
    I am a decently regular follower of Putin’s regular kind of ‘town meetings’, and one of the things I noticed in the few questions where he kind of didn’t understand the gist of the questioner, is whenever it comes to grassroots power. The particular example was one of the power of raising popular understanding and the contribution of the nursing staff versus a preponderance of counting on the doctors’ part within national health care. This was not a ‘not willing to understand’ or ‘ideologically against’ – no, this was the type that I have seen in Russia many times, where one is so used to top-down, state-led change that grassroots, ‘chaos-prone change’ can be decidedly positive as well.
    All this to say that there are two things in your review that I agree with: the Russian economy is too much a state-led one, and the people in power don’t know, and may be afraid of, grassroots power. Surely the Ukrainian debacle will have moved this back even further, but a socialist revival and grassroots one is something I would wish to see. But not at the cost of millions. We can safely wait for the cost of millions to now be paid by the West as capitalism is dipping into the same shit hole as the USSR did – the French yellow vests and deplorable Trump are symptoms akin to the Chernobyl non-transparency catalyst back then.

    Like

    1. Josh, you might be interested in this talk with the author hosted by the London Review of Books:
      https://www.lrb.co.uk/2018/12/05/bookshop-video/russia-without-putin

      Wood no doubt is interesting. Admittedly I was surprised he is British. Didn’t pay enough attention, there was Paul’s hint: New Left Review. … Wrong synaptic connection. … All I noticed was the American South, studies and New York University. That I can understand, classic left context.

      But he is quite productive, all over the place. Almost made me subscribe to the New Left Review on culture issues he wrote about. May be I will. Come to think about it.

      The most interesting bit he mentioned at the start is that the Russian oligarch’s made it into our public perception both as phenomenon and word in 1997. I have been wondering about that lately more often. Maybe I should subscribe to the OED? How did he check

      ************
      This part of your comment opens a whole new can of worms, it feels it did show in some reviews, there is some awareness about watching and being watched, lately:
      We can safely wait for the cost of millions to now be paid by the West as capitalism is dipping into the same shit hole as the USSR did – the French yellow vests and deplorable Trump are symptoms akin to the Chernobyl non-transparency catalyst back then.

      ********

      But: Don’t you worry, the supreme guarantor of capitalism carries the yellow vest now. Thus what could possibly go wrong? No matter were you are East, South? vs North? West somewhere? Middle of East?
      https://turcopolier.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341c72e153ef022ad3d1b4ef200b-popup

      Tony Wood on Populism:
      https://www.e-flux.com/journal/76/67530/some-theses-on-populism/

      Like

  4. I think Wood is not as mistaken as you think Professor. After all Kremlin ‘political technologists’ have spent much of their efforts since 1993 in trying to think of how to split the Communist Party vote. The encouragement/creation of ‘Just Russia’ as a spoiler Party is the most blatant one, but there are other, underappreciated ways this is done.

    Putin’s Centrism is not Centrism by doing half of a right wing/half of a left wing or a little of a right wing/most of a left wing or a little of a left wing/most of a right wing policy when he enacts one – for the most part. Putin’s Centrism is what one might call ‘Centrism by median policy.’ For example, on the one hand you have a Libertarian flat income tax. On the other hand Putin made companies like Rosneft, Gazprom, UAC full on State owned and run companies.

    Putin has, not entirely wholeheartedly, also done a lot to restore parts of the Soviet welfare system. And when he has fallen down on this, the Communists are often able to use this to criticize Putin in the Duma and even defeat United Russia in elections. Putin’s popularity took a dive when he attempted a, in my opinion, badly structured reform of the pension system without adopting a concurrent strong left wing policy that would have balanced criticism and mitigated concerns – as he usually does. He suffered politically as a result and United Russia’s opposition gained at its expense in the Far East.

    But for the most part Putin has stayed in power by giving everyone – save the most extreme – a policy that gives them something of what they want Russia to look like. As such he and his party are able to appeal to a broad swathe of opinion and create a winning coalition at election time.

    Like

  5. Two (2) not rhetorical questions and one (1) commentary.

    Questions:

    A) It’s the second time in one month, when Professor resorts to the off-hand labeling of something and someone as “leftist”. This, naturally begs a question – how do you define “leftist”?. The way this labeling is done as if everyone already understands the term and agrees on its definition – or at least is unwilling to question its validity. Still, Professor – what do you mean by the term “leftist” here? I can’t claim it with 100% conviction, but, I suspect, that you do not define as a “leftist” just about anyone “to the left of Attila the Hun” (c). In past, you went to some great length to correct others resorting to misused terms. Why not to do the same here? At least I have no idea whatsoever who precisely is the author politically speaking. Once again, not having 100% conviction, I, still, wager a theory, that he is not a faithful follower of Comrade Enver Hoxha. But other than that I’m not sure who he is

    B) Actually, we are not provided any kind of background information about book’s author. It’s became a bon tonne long time ago for the professional, printable Russia Watchers to have no knowledge of the language in the first place. They also, quite predictably, tend to come from a very diverse background, more often than not without relevant education in the broad field of the so-called “Russia Studies”. What about the author? Why should we pay any attention to him and his opinions in the first place? What methodology he uses to draw his (without doubt!) relevant and well thought conclusions? Finally – what criterions does he use when choosing the sources, because, I have a strong suspicion, he sounds like one of those Westies who eschews anything written/said by the “pro-Kremlin MEDIA”, instead relying solely on hype- (and shit-) eating “gays and democratic journalists” (c) with low sense of the social responsibility, conscientious intelligents (c) and the militant vanguard of the kreakleriat.

    Commentary.

    One thing I’m sure though, is the “genre” of this book. This approach to “describe” Russia – it’s a plain old otherization , due, to “the ideas of Western messianism and view of West-Russia relations as teacher-student relationship (in all connotations of that)… Many social issues which are present in the West and in Russia are pinpointed, highlighted and criticized as predominantly ‘Russian’. Russia’s ‘success’ in any area is tied to ‘positive Western influence’ while ‘failure’ is attributed to ‘Russian barbarity’ and ‘uncivilized nature’.”.

    It’s a good (and very dumb) tradition, to try to limit Western schools of, ha-ha, “thought” on Russia to two diametrally opposite ones, like “Republicans vs Democrats”, or “Hawks vs Doves”, or even Konstantin Aleksandrovich Gessen’s “Liberal Crusaders vs Liberal Door-to-Door preachers”. So if I present my own (very questionable) dichotomist classification, it, be default, won’t be among the top-10 lamest ones.

    A) Those who think/preach that Russia is Mordor. Mordor is the Realm of Darkness, populated by vile, violent, and eeeeeeeeeeeeeevil Or(c)/(k)s. The West, naturally, is the Bright and Shining Valinor, which is Totally Different. Mordor threatens Valionor simply by its existence. From time to time, there arise a Dark Overlord of Mordor, that ought to be defeated, in order the Save the World ™. This act of the world saving though does not change the nature of Mordor and its Orcs, requiring the constant vigilance on the part of the Good Guys.

    Having established this “basic and undisputed facts” (i.e. religious dogma), the proponents of the “Russia as Mordor” school of thought just take everything written about, say, Islam and Muslims after 9/11 by a throng of ideologically reliable stable of propacondoms talented authors, who provided the ideological justification of the Eternal War on Terror (or one can go deeper and regurgitate plain ol’ Racist writings of yore – no one will notice), serial numbers are filed off and – voila! You have a very profitable industry (with everything that this entails in the capitalist system) supporting the Clash of Civilizations narrative.

    B) Those who think/preach that Russia is the Other. There is, in fact, no such thing as “Russia” or “Russians”. Instead, on this [Territory] populated by these [People] is your [Ideological Paradize]… or a potential to make one. Resorting to the centuries old tropes of the Noble Savages, Primitive Pure Ones and Magic(k)al Natives. Faithful of this school religiously believe, that while in their Homeland things went recently not so well for them and their views, here they might get a second chance – for [Russia] is just a tabula rasa and nothing more. Besides, essentially, [Russians] are Just Like Us (and We are the Only Normal Ones), only wearing funny fur hats, eating borsch and other +100500 stereotypes, which this school of thought not only does not deny, but embrace wholeheartedly. This helps to explain why despite essential similarity there are still obvious differences. Eliminating (some) of these differences is a must.

    You just need to tweak here and there, add bells and whistles and – voila! You have your [Ideological Idealized Dream] realized on the [Territory]. This a very big umbrella school of thought. It unites many, including regime change fanatics, proponents of the old-faschioned autistic Blood’n’Soil preaching, Neo-Lebensraumists, who think that consuming all [Russia’s] resources and biomass is, essentially, good for both the [Russians] and the West, teary eyed liberals, that lost any connection with the reality, and (crypto)Trotskyites, like, again, Konstantin Aleksandrovich Gessen. Just grab your old books dating back to the colonial era and… frankly, don’t even pretend that you filed off the serial numbers.

    This book, as I can judge by the snippets, comments and the review, firmly belongs to the (2) category. Which makes it very (Western) mainstream, and, ultimately, useless. I’d be glad to be convinced otherwise, but, so far…

    Like

    1. For what it is worth, I’m rather in your camp about all this- I don’t understand, for example, why more prominence is not given in blogs like this to what “serious” Russian commentators are saying. For example, Dmitri Trenin is adamant that from the very beginning Putin, when faced with the choice of going with the elites, including the intelligentsia, or the ordinary people, chose the latter. If one accepts this, then immediately, much of the ongoing conversation has to be re-framed. (In the West, often both dominant political parties can be reasonably described as “business parties”.) I am also often struck how Western writers will discuss Russia without acknowledging that the economic center of the World is steadily moving towards Asia. Why should Russia care what the elites in the US and Europe think? Sergei Karaganov has been arguing for years now that Russia should reorient towards Asia- in one of his articles he says “We have used up the European Treasure Trove.” He is probably right. (Of course, his arguments are sophisticated and nuanced.)
      Russia, like all countries, has its problems. (To begin with, the US, especially, is trying to screw it.) There are many things that I don’t understand about it and some things that the Russian government didn’t seem to address properly, but I rarely see these issues seriously discussed in the Western “press”.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “But would you care to explain to me the kreakleriat? “

        It’s a neologism. “Creative class” + “proletariat”, deliberately Russiphied in spelling with a “k”. The use of expression is purely sarcastic – for one, kreakls are by no means the working class (they are incapable of the physical labor) – they are the whining class. So-called creative class consists of members of the avante-gard artistic intelligentsia, democratic journalists, opposition minded bloggers, independent photographers and various Net- and Media personalities with similar vews. If they were living in the US of A, all (ALL) of them would have subscibed to The New Yorker.

        Like

      2. ok, thanks, Lyttie,
        thus I wasn’t too far off? Loved the image, although have to take a closer look. Thanks for the gloriol, appreciated. I do find virtue signaling a helpful term.

        ************

        Come to think about it, I may not be a fan of what you consider “the militant vanguard of the kreakleriat” either. I only partly understand the context. And yes, there are marketing basics: Let me give you one: you gotta stick out. By sticking out you may find supporters. Nowadays no doubt partly beyond your own frontiers. …

        Now, beyond your by now rather habitual author bashing, which I dislike, since it seems some type of running gag by now:

        So-called creative class consists of members of the avante-gard artistic intelligentsia, democratic journalists, opposition minded bloggers, independent photographers and various Net- and Media personalities with similar vews

        Like most of us “Westerners” and probably to a way lower extend then our “dear author” here, in case you distinguished between strictly two authors we are talking about here. If so,I had troubles to understand.

        But like it or hate it, some of the Russian bloggers, opposition minded and photographers I stumbled across i found quite interesting. And really reminiscent of my earlier encounters on my own ground.

        In a way I found your, supposedly, more United Russia concerned statements above interesting. For one reason only, “the bloggers, opposition minded, independent photographers” or at least one of them were as concerned with rather practical matters on the ground as your friend’s parents, if I understand correctly. …

        Like

      3. ok, the old story around then and than.

        But strictly something about you seems to make me angry … Thus if you feel the same about me, welcome.

        Or is there no communication possible beyond frontiers?

        *******
        Ok, Fyodor felt like a soul mate at one point in time. … Even helped me in real life after, saved my life at one point. The reason why I read him was curious too. The sentence that came with the suggestion I’ll never forget. Thus came the big surprise of the book itself.

        Like

      4. LeaNder, if you would be 100% honest and forthcoming, how would you evaluate your own ability to be understood by others in the Net?

        Like

      5. LeaNder, if you would be 100% honest and forthcoming, how would you evaluate your own ability to be understood by others in the Net?

        difficult question. honest and forthcoming about what? Myself? My possibly misguided spontaneous takes on matters? My illusionary wish to understand it all — people, lately people and politics with emphasis on politics and/as war– me and the world around me?

        As much as I can, honest and forthcoming that is, although with a growing sense of a need to protect myself.

        ********
        See, i have an idea why you might want to ask that question, but would my NET reminiscences collections be able to meet yours? Let’s say at the point were we first met NET-wise somewhere else?

        Bans had a much, much longer history there, rather spontaneously, I have my choleric layers too, the troll discussion came many, many years later, recurringly.

        Like

      6. LeaNder, for my rather short question about your ability to communicate with other people via Internet in such fashion, that said other people could understand you, you answered with long… something… of which I found nothing that could possibly provide me with a direct answer.

        Still, I got an answer.

        Like

      7. Lyttenburgh, yes i avoided the answer for a very, very simple reason. I do not think anybody including family and closest friends can understand me 100%.

        I don’t even understand myself 100% all of the time. Sometimes I have to reflect on matters.

        If it was possible would there be any need for clarifying questions? Up to an inquisitorial cascade of questions?

        Like

    2. I wish I had, unfortunately i am human, the latest necessary technical enhancement implanted in my brain.

      But would you care to explain to me the kreakleriat? Am I wrong to connect it to the “creatives”? Somehow? Cleriat seems to be present too, seems to suggest clerics.

      the militant vanguard of the kreakleriat.

      JP seemingly is interested in Gogol biography wise. Absolutely interesting context. Assuming here you may know, while no doubt too a rather high percentage misguided.. What biography on Mikhail Dostoevsky would you suggest?

      Like

  6. “For Wood, the most important of those forces in Russia’s case is capitalism, or more precisely the specific form that capitalism has taken following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The defining feature of this form is a ‘symbiosis of state and business’. In recent years this has led to an ever-faster ‘revolving door’, as businessmen move into government and government officials move into business. The result is a ‘blurring of the boundary between the state and the private sector’, resulting in rampant corruption and abuse of state authority in order to boost private profit.”

    It is amusing to see this as a description of Russia, because it also represents the Trumpsters’ (correct) view of the U.S.. Vast swathes of the economy– health care, climate change, education, law, government employment generally, finance — have been turned into cronyist preserves. As a result, the elite and dependent classes are protected while the working and middle classes are subject to the fierce winds of the global marketplace.

    U.S. academic elites are largely blind to this, perhaps because they profit so greatly by their poor sight, so they keep recommending even more cronyism as a cure for U.S. ills. To the extent that the Russian intelligentsia want to embrace “conventional western social and economic policy,” Woods is right that they are heading down the wrong path.

    But “challenging the fundamentals of a capitalist economy” is not the right one. While the Trumpsters have not articulated any coherent theory, they are edging toward the most promising path, which is to re-embrace, not reject, free market fundamentals, return large sectors of the economy, such as health and education, to the private sector, add a social safety net, reform monetary policy, and create a government that is restrained and competent. It is not clear we can get there from here, but anything else is unlikely to work.

    Like

    1. jvd 2014… i like the parallel you make… to me the financial dynamic in the world today – what i loosely call neo-liberalism, basically corporations dictating to gov’t what they want, and gov’ts agreeing is a big part of why the economy always trumps the environment…it is the biggest issue facing the world – who is running the financial system on the planet and why can some countries, like the usa – impose sanctions on others by using international institutions put in place from the bretton woods agreement, to clobber others over the head with..

      i don’t think it matters whether it is trump, or any other usa leader.. they all happily follow the ceos of exxon, goldman sachs and etc etc and bring the same thing we have been witnessing for some time now and that is – a planet largely run by financial, energy and military corporations.. the thought that russia could be different is a bit of a joke too as russia is stuck with this same international system as a member of the imf and central bank dictates that uphold an agenda that is essentially universal today.. until something in all of this changes, political leaders will continue to be bought and paid for by corporations… putin does indeed seem to be different which is why so many who know anything about him – admire him..

      paul – thanks for the book review and your posts..

      Like

  7. “For all its attacks on prevailing stereotypes about Russia, ‘Russia without Putin’ ends up being just another form of negative reporting. It challenges the common narrative about why life in Russia sucks, but at the end of the day it agrees with the basic proposition that it does – just for different reasons from those normally suggested.”
    BINGO!
    And there is an entire literature on the “left” like this.

    Like

  8. Speaking of supposedly “new” interpretive frameworks through which to view Russia, the NYU Jordan Center will soon be hosting a talk on…”thugocratic governmentality”:

    U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictments and other prosecutorial filings point to unprecedented and unusual interactions between Trump campaign personnel and Russian political and oligarchic circles. These appear to suggest broad Russian elite participation in the project to make Trump president. Yet there is a long history of transnational, organized political and criminal enterprise surrounding the Trump “project.” A wider, socio-political analysis of Trump’s networks can provide nuance to the standard narratives about “Trump-Russia.”
    Taking advantage of the voluminous legal documentation of Donald Trump’s business and political history, Thugocracy provides a social-theoretical frame to analyze the nature of Trump’s connections to Soviet and post-Soviet Russia. It offers a “theory of the case” of this relationship that situates Trump, from the very start of his career, in an ever-growing network of trans-national, often criminal, investors, entrepreneurs, and agents of political PR (including, notably, “black PR”, to adopt the Russian term). The Trump Organization’s mob-enriched projects of the 1980s and 1990s harmonized well with and were dramatically amplified in their potency by emergent Soviet and post-Soviet networks and, in particular, by the hyper-charge of post-Soviet capital outflows.
    The argument that emerges from this analysis centers around the concept of “thugocratic governmentality,” which describes the complex goals of allied regimes: unlawful capital accumulation, money laundering, and transfer, state capture, deregulation of natural resource extraction, the ascendance of informality, the undermining of the rule of law, voter manipulation and suppression, the stifling of civil society, and the delegitimization of professional spheres of journalism, science, and higher education. Political disruption, confusion, and the spread of a popular sense of chaos are part and parcel of thugocracy, and signs of both its tactics in action and its political achievements.
    Analyzing thugocratic governance as a longstanding transnational phenomenon of networked oligarchies and interconnected political-economic projects allows us to explore the “Trump-Russia” phenomenon without falling into the now well-demarcated rhetorical furrows characterized by many as Russophobic conspiracy theory.

    http://jordanrussiacenter.org/event/thugocracy-a-way-to-think-about-trump-and-russia/
    By Nancy Ries, professor of peace and conflict studies and…anthropology?!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s