By Alena V. Ledeneva
During this unique, bottom-up account of the evolution of latest Russia, Alena Ledeneva seeks to bare how casual strength operates. targeting Vladimir Putin's process of governance - known as sistema - she identifies 4 key forms of networks: his internal circle, important neighbors, middle contacts and extra diffuse ties and connections. those networks serve sistema but in addition serve themselves. Reliance on networks allows leaders to mobilise and to manage, but in addition they lock politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen into casual bargains, mediated pursuits and personalized loyalty. this is often the 'modernisation catch of informality': one can't use the possibility of casual networks with out triggering their damaging long term outcomes for institutional improvement. Ledeneva's standpoint on casual energy relies on in-depth interviews with sistema insiders and greater by way of facts of its workings dropped at mild in lawsuits, allowing her to attract wide conclusions concerning the clients for Russia's political associations.
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Additional info for Can Russia Modernise?: Sistema, Power Networks and Informal Governance
This is partly because top-down efforts are difficult to sustain, and partly because any change in the formal rules introduces, and is perceived as, yet another constraint to be dealt with informally. This often results in readjustment and a reconfiguration of the informal workings of the system around new constraints, rather than a decline in the significance of unwritten rules. The reproduction of sistema is based on its non-transparency: (a) networks of insiders are tied together by following an unwritten code; (b) members are recruited on the basis of loyalty; (c) members are initiated and ‘compromised’ (compromising material is collected to ensure compliance); (d) rewards and punishment are distributed on the basis of extra-legal criteria; (e) the foundations of belonging to networks of power are hidden behind formal appointments and are non-transparent, feeding back into the reproduction of sistema.
Every ruler who aims to modernise Russia faces the obstacle of sistema, presumed to be a collective outcome of the pre-modern ways of governance – the so-called ‘governance puzzle’. Its essence is a vicious circle generated by the ruler’s dependence on informal leverage. Informal power is an attribute of any formal status. Russia’s specifics are in its unarticulated nature, political culture of informality and lack of accountability. These features, identified in Soviet times, seem to be reproducing successfully in an environment of ineffective ‘checks and balances’ and help sustain the workings of sistema.
It is time to look into the use of informal networks by the power elites. Sistema as a new puzzle Lilia Shevtsova defines the Russian system as ‘a specific type of governance structure whose characteristics include paternalism, the state domineering over the individual, isolation from the outside world, and ambitions to be a great power. The heart of the system was the allpowerful leader, above the law and a law unto himself, concentrating in his hands all powers, without a balancing accountability, and limiting all other institutions to auxiliary, administrative functions.
Can Russia Modernise?: Sistema, Power Networks and Informal Governance by Alena V. Ledeneva