Russia's 'Privatized' State as an Impediment to Democratic Consolidation: Part II

Journal article

McFaul, Michael A. (1998) Russia's 'Privatized' State as an Impediment to Democratic Consolidation: Part II, Security Dialogue 29 (3): 315–332.

The rulers and institutions constituting the Russian state have neither the will nor the ability to act upon the preferences of their citizens. To the extent that it does act, Russia's state serves primarily the interests of a small group of business elites ensconced in Moscow. Mass-based interest groups are marginal; institutions that could help to redress this imbalance -- such as a strong parliament, an effective party system, an independent judiciary -- do not exist. In Russia elections are the sole means for society to influence the state; it has become an 'electoral democracy', but not a 'liberal democracy'. The state has consolidated both institutionally and ideologically, but the disconnect between mass preferences and state actions has become more acute. While historically growing gaps between state and society in Russia have on occasion produced revolutionary explosions, the situation today is not inherently unstable, and a breakdown is not inevitable. The conditions for societal unrest are permissive, but the probabilities of change through this mechanism remain low. Ultimately, the current equilibrium will change only when the state can be deployed to destroy monopolies, secure property rights, tax profit-makers and provide a more favourable environment for market competition and investment. While a slow process, this change can come about peacefully only through the ballot box.

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