Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Introduction: Nontraditional Approaches to Russian Politics and Security

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Introduction: Nontraditional Approaches to Russian Politics and Security

Article excerpt

The Soviet system's demise created a tremendous opportunity to unleash creative energies that had been ideologically constrained for decades. Even though some individuals ingeniously pushed the USSR's intellectual boundaries, most Soviet social scientists worked within the established Socialist paradigm. The opportunities to "break out" were greater in Central Europe than in the Soviet Union.

Despite high hopes for new collaborative efforts, post-1991 scholarship has failed to produce much paradigm shifting. In Russia, the country that dominated Soviet social science, the stronger trend has become the defense of "traditional" analytical modes, not the challenge of old assumptions. There are exceptions, however. Several universities established since 1992 offer a blend of Russian and Western scholarly approaches. In the best cases, they expose students to Russian and Western (mirovoi, literally "world") scholarly literature.

The Carnegie Corporation of New York invited the European University at St. Petersburg's political science and sociology faculty and Georgetown University's Government Department to explore potential synergies in a collaborative project involving scholars from both institutions. For three years, European University scholars developed their expertise in nontraditional approaches. During the project's final year, each of them spent time at Georgetown, presented their work at seminars, and consulted with American colleagues to sharpen their scholarship's focus. The four articles published here present some of the results from this collaboration.

The Soviet system's collapse provided tremendous opportunities for scholars to rethink basic assumptions about politics and security. In the first months of 1992, almost anything seemed possible. This gave extra potency to existing efforts to encourage "new thinking." In comparative politics, the "transitions" paradigm-the dominant discourse-was quickly challenged by a chorus of critics who accused "shock therapists" of "market bolshevism."1 In both economics and political analysis, opposing sides tended to talk past each other. Political debates often involved a basic difference between procedural and substantive definitions of democracy. Economic arguments were similarly procedural, but ever more bitter, with rapidreform advocates focusing on process, whereas gradualists emphasized outcomes.

After 1998, the focus increasingly shifted to nondemocratic systems, joining a growing literature on hybrid regimes and new varieties of authoritarianism.2 This literature, and the related discussions' shift toward "the political," is well-known to Demokratizatsiya readers. The backgrounds of nontraditional security topics may be less familiar, however.

The Security Studies Dilemma

Early Nontraditionalists

The mainstream security studies community finds the integration of "new" security issues difficult, especially given the post-September 11 focus on terrorism. Many security studies experts have responded to perceived threats to traditional security studies by defending the fortress rather than reexamining assumptions.

Some of the earliest and most influential scholars who challenged traditional security approaches include Richard Ullman, Jessica Tuchman Mathews, and Thomas F. Homer-Dixon.3 Writing in the early 1980s, when the Soviet Union was still very much in business, Ullman warns that "every administration in Washington has defined American national security in excessively narrow and excessively military terms."4 He attributes this to politicians finding it easier to focus public attention on military rather than nonmilitary threats, and analysts' inability to calculate the relative security value of alternative priorities in resource allocation. This policy makes everyone less secure by encouraging excessive militarization.

Ullman proposes "moving toward a more comprehensive definition of security," but he poses the question in terms of a trade-off between security and other values. …

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