Dec. 16th, 2016

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Если бы попугай из "Понедельника начинается в субботу" работал бы не в НИИЧАВО, а в ЕУСПб, он бы громко провозгласил: "Р-р-рецензия на Р-р-рождество, швейцар-р-ская". И впрямь, рецензия на мою книгу http://www.upress.pitt.edu/BookDetails.aspx?bookId=36573 - уже десятая по счету, правда, не в швейцарском, а в британском журнале Political Studies Review:

"Book Review: Vladimir Gel’man, Authoritarian Russia: Analyzing Post-Soviet Regime Changes, Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015

Article first published online: December 16, 2016
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1478929916676912

Alexander Graef, University of St. Gallen

In this book, Vladimir Gel’man asks how and why Russia has failed to become a democracy after the collapse of communism. In his opinion, there are no structural, cultural or historical preconditions that made this development inevitable. To him, neither optimists, who see Russia as a normal country on the path of liberal modernisation, nor pessimists, who emphasise the historical tradition of authoritarian statehood, provide comprehensive explanations. Instead, based on a realist point of view that sees human action as rational utility maximising, Gel’man focuses on the role of interests and emphasises the strategies of political actors. He draws attention to the lack of institutional and political constraints that facilitated the authoritarian drift. Thus, whenever the elite faced the choice between moving in an authoritarian or a democratic direction, they almost always opted for the former. In three chapters, he analyses Russia’s political trajectory during the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s through the lens of critical junctures. He identifies a growing institutional disequilibrium after the wave of protests in 2011–2012. In the last chapter, he provides a general outlook on the future development of the Russian regime, describing four different scenarios: political decay, repressive authoritarianism, regime collapse and creeping democratisation.
Gel’man’s book is a well-argued and concise overview of Russian domestic politics in the last 25 years. In a little more than 150 pages, the author succeeds in painting a lively and nuanced picture of the political trajectory. Moreover, the comprehensive endnotes (50 pages of them) provide both the academic novice and the interested reader with a wide range of sources for further reading. The brevity of the book, of course, comes with disadvantages. It seems that the realist approach has been deliberately chosen to keep the argument clear and easy to handle. However, a realist version of politics entails more than rational choice. It is not just the appetite for power that drives human beings, nor are they always deliberate and reflective about their choices. Moreover, institutions do not only impose constraints on voluntary action, but affect the very preferences and identities of individuals. As survey data show, the so-called ‘Putin generation’ largely supports the President and identifies with his worldview, despite the poor performance of institutions. The political equilibrium of the Russian regime thus could prove more persistent than the author might hope".

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