Russian Politics and Society

By Richard Sakwa | Go to book overview

19Pluralism, elites, regimeand leadership

Our object in the construction of the state is the greatest happiness of the whole, and not that of any one class.

(Plato) 1

We are now in a position to reflect more broadly on the nature of post-communist political development in Russia. We will begin by examining the ambiguities in Russian pluralism, the social nature of the transition, the emergence of a quasidemocratic regime system of rule, and conclude with an examination of the role of Yeltsin and Putin in post-communist Russian politics.


Russian pluralism

The political system was marked by the following features. First, although formally the presidency under Yeltsin gained enormous powers, its authority and powers were fragmented: the presidential system was prey to factionalism and competing policy lobbies. Under Putin the presidency sought to reassert its autonomy while at the same time differentiating the state from the economy and unmediated social pressure. Second, the fragmented nature of political authority allowed the 'power' and political ministries, the only bodies with the bureaucratic muscle to do so, to devise and pursue their own agendas and policies, often in contradiction to officially proclaimed policy. Third, the government was relatively marginalised, concerned mainly with the economy. Fourth, while parliament emerged as an effective legislative agency, its political influence was relatively weak because authority had been transferred to the presidency and the government. In terms of principal-agent theory, the accountability of the agent (the executive authorities) to the principal (the sovereign people's representatives in parliament) was extraordinarily weak. Fifth, the numerous political parties did not yet add up to a viable multi-party system. In short, a modified bureaucratic politics model clearly applies to post-communist Russian politics.

Democratisation is usually defined as the extension of mass democracy through active citizenship. The stunted development of popular representation in Russia and the limited reach of parties means that, although formally a democracy, the quality of democratic life in Russia remains impoverished. Political parties serve more as a means of communicating within the elite and of mobilising ideological and political resources in intra-elite struggle than a way of representing social interests. The communicative functions between state and society are fulfilled more by

-445-

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Russian Politics and Society
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures ix
  • Tables x
  • Preface to the Third Edition xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Note on Style, Spelling and Transliteration xiv
  • Glossary of Acronyms, Acrostics and Terms xv
  • Part I - The Fall of Communism and the Rebirth of Russia 1
  • 1: Soviet Communism and Its Dissolution 3
  • 2: The Disintegration of the Ussr 27
  • Part II - Political Institutions and Processes 43
  • 3: The New Constitutional Order 45
  • 4: Law and Society 72
  • 5: The Executive 98
  • 6: The Legislature 125
  • 7: Electoral Politics 140
  • 8: Party Development 172
  • Part III - Federalism, Regionalism and Nationalism 201
  • 9: Federalism and the State 203
  • 10: Regional and Local Politics 224
  • 11: National Identity and State-Building 254
  • Part IV - Economy and Society 277
  • 12: Marketising the Economy 279
  • 13: Society and Social Movements 305
  • 14: Cultural Transformation 331
  • Part V - Foreign Policies 347
  • 15: Foreign Policy 349
  • 16: Commonwealth, Community and Fragmentation 375
  • 17: Defence and Security Policy 396
  • Part VI - Dilemmas of Democratisation 423
  • 18: Problems of Transition 425
  • 19: Pluralism, Elites, Regime and Leadership 445
  • 20: Democracy in Russia 463
  • Notes 475
  • Select Bibliography 524
  • Index 527
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