Russia: from a Corrupt System to a
System with Corruption?
Russia is moving from metacorruption, that is a system which is corrupt in its very essence, to 'normal' corruption; from a corrupt system to a system with corruption. The communist system was metacorrupt in that it never subordinated itself to the rule of law (although of course it ruled by and through the law), because of its lack of accountability, and because of the systematic enjoyment of privileges granted its leadership from the common ownership of the means of production. 1 A new form of metacorruption, however, has emerged, rooted in the transition from a state-owned economy to a market-based system. The enormity of the attempt to disentangle the political process from its deep embedment in the economy, while at the same time structuring political life as an autonomous activity governed by the impartial rule of law and accountable to the electorate, can hardly be exaggerated. The extrication of the Russian state from, on the one hand, deep involvement in the economy and, on the other, from its dominance by a single party that governed for some seventy years in an arbitrary and voluntarist manner, represents an act of political reconstitution unprecedented in its scope and complexity. What has emerged, though, is a dual system where new forms of systemic metacorruption coexist with what we shall call venal corruption, the pursuit of individual gain out of the pursuit or attainment of public office.
Although communist systems presented themselves as dedicated to the popular good and fought a constant struggle against political