Institute of Sociology
of the Federal Center of Theoretical and Applied Sociology
of the Russian Academy of Sciences

POLIS (Political Studies)

2015, No 04

Topic: Symbolic politics. Manuscripts don’t burn!




Presenting this issue (p. 6-7)

On the Seventh All-Russia Congress of Political Scientists (p. 7-8)



Manuscripts Don’t Burn! Introduction to the Rubric “Symbolic Politics” (p. 9-11)

Malinova O.Yu.

Myth as a Category of Symbolic Politics: Analysis of Theoretical Junctions (p. 12-21)

Abstract. The article describes theoretical junctions revealed by different definitions and usages of the concept “political myth”. It argues that the main difficulty results from the fact that “myth” is a “universal” social phenomenon that is rather “particular” in its manifestation: it is fundamental for any society, but its “work” depends on perception of specific groups in concrete contexts. The article considers theoretical discussions about a narrative nature of contemporary myths, their exclusively verbal or non-verbal form, about arrangement of mythical comprehension of reality and mechanisms of mythologization, about connections between myths and ideologies. However most scholars agree that about capability to be shared and perceived as “a natural order of things” should be considered a key characteristic of any myth. This category is fundamental for analysis of symbolic politics. However its heuristic potential depends on a particular research focus. In the frame of narrower approach that considers symbolic politics as a “constructivist” activity of political elites aimed at manipulation of mass consciousness “the myth” comes as a category of political practice; it points to “artificial”, simulating character of the constructed signs. While a wider approach viewing symbolic politics as a social production of competing ways of interpretation of reality and struggle for their domination opens a perspective for considering myth as communicative process that involves both mythmakers and their auditory. It makes focus on a study of both political and semantic conditions that make particular myth a “lens” that determines perception of reality. So, myth turns to be both category of practice in symbolic politics and instrument of its analysis which makes the work with this term rather complicated.

Keywords. political myth; ideology; symbolic politics; social constructivism; mythologization; communication; frame.

Potseluyev S.P.

Symbolic Party as Cultural and Political Phenomenon: German Experience in Russian Perspective (p. 22-33)

Abstract. The article is devoted to symbolic parties as a typical phenomenon of segmented (fragmented) political cultures. On a material of German political history, the various aspects of this phenomenon are examined by the author, drawing parallels with post-Soviet Russia. Symbolic parties are understood as coalitions around significant political symbols expressing different segments (fragments) of political culture. Following German sociologist M.R. Lepsius, the author describes the social basis of symbolic parties as a “sociomoral environment”. It is a complex socio-cultural formation which differs from the other environments (subcultures) through the symbols expressing specific moral frames of political ideologies. In the context of a segmented and fragmented political culture, the sociomoral environments are characterized by “camp mentality” and a tendency to “social secession.” In times of deep socio-political crisis, the symbolic parties become an expression of civil war of political symbols rather than a sign of politically diffuse socio-cultural environments. The article indicates the typical characteristics of this war, namely, “savagery” of public political discourse, beastialization of political opponents, social militarism, deficit of monopoly on the legitimate use of symbolic violence, and others. The author considers the sociomoral environments as a subcultural basis of symbolic parties in Imperial Germany; moreover, a comparative classification of symbolic parties in the Weimar Republic and contemporary Russia is proposed in the article. In particular, in Weimar Germany the following symbolic parties are defined: democrats-republicans, imperialists-monarchists, communists-internationalists, and national socialists. In modern Russia, at least three major symbolic parties are identifiable: democrat-westerner, imperial nationalists, and communists-nationalists. Between Weimar Germany and contemporary Russia a substantial similarity is revealed, and this concerns not only a set of symbolic parties, but also the tendency of their interaction: the transition of ideological power from the symbolic party of “democrats” to the one of “imperialists”, though in the framework of the same constitutional order. However, in contrast to the ideological situation in Weimar Germany, in the post-Soviet Russia a limited civil-patriotic consensus was formed. Strengthening this consensus involves managing risks of authoritarian-totalitarian unification of the national political culture. Alternatively, this article refers to the experience of “symbolic balancing” of the ideological extremes of “left” and right “in democratic countries. Moreover, the author discusses the E. Fraenkel’s idea of “collective” or “dialectic” democracy which involves competent parliamentarism and interaction of political subcultures on pluralistic basis.

Keywords. symbolic parties; fragmented political culture; sociomoral environments; political subcultures; cold civil war; civil war of symbols; symbolic national consensus; dialectic democracy

Bereznyakov D.V., Kozlov S.V.

Symbolic Politics in Post-Soviet Ukraine: Construction of the Legitimizing Narrative (p. 34-45)

Abstract. The article analyses certain aspects and results of symbolic politics in post-Soviet Ukraine, which is unfolding in the conditions resulting from the collapse of the state and the erosion of symbolic resources for constructing national identity. The authors believe that one of the factors that contributed to the failure of the Ukrainian version of state construction is the particular format of symbolic politics selected by Ukrainian intellectual and political elites as an actual scenario for constructing Ukrainian national identity. Symbolic politics is viewed in this context as a communicative process of legitimizing political dominance and constructing a collective identity regardless of any particular type of a political regime. This is based on the fact that all political regimes seek to achieve effective political communication, which stabilizes relations of domination over the long term by developing legitimate reception of the social world and diverse rituals whose functional meaning is mass-scale involvement of the population in the reproduction of the symbolic order. This process ultimately involves not only political and intellectual elites, but also various agents of socialization and media-professionals, while social audiences become active recipients of political communication, capable of alternative decoding of the dominant ideological content developed by the elites. The authors stress that the main distinctive aspect of the legitimizing narrative at the core of the formation of the Ukrainian national state is its syncretic character which involves ideological codes of neoliberalism and of the nationalizing state-building with different underlying types of identity. The neoliberal ideological code is based on the opposition between the market and the state and on the model identity of homo economicus, while the ideological narratives invoked to invent a nation focus not on the rational actor and on minimizing the role of the state viewed as inefficient manager, but on the macropolitical identity constructed by a string national state.

Keywords. Ukraine; Russia; neoliberalism; nationalism; symbolic politics; ideology; legitimation



Sakwa R.

Back to the Wall: Myths and Mistakes that Made the Ukraine Crisis (p. 46-63)

Abstract. The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the subsequent end of the Cold War had been attended by expectations of a new era of reconciliation and healing in Europe. Instead, on the 25th anniversary of the dismantling of the dividing line across Germany and Europe, Ukraine announced plans to build a new wall along its 2,295 kilometre-long border with Russia. This was an attempt physically to separate Ukraine from Russia, and reflected the deeper psychological and political gulf between the two countries. It also demonstrated that a new iron curtain threatened to divide Europe, no longer ‘from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic’, as Winston Churchill put it in his speech announcing the Cold War in Fulton, Missouri, on 5 March 1946, but from Narva on the Baltic to Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. Defenders of the new wall argue that this one is different, designed no longer to oppress people within its confines, but like the Great Wall of China, to keep the barbarians out; or like the Separation Wall in Palestine, to defend civilians. Some 274 people died along the Berlin Wall between its construction in August 1961 to its dismantling in November 1989, whereas according to the UN over 6,000 had died in Ukraine in the year after the beginning of armed conflict in April 2014 died. Walls and war have returned to the continent.

After more than a year of conflict, the causes of the Ukrainian crisis remain bitterly contested. As analysts and power brokers on both sides argue vehemently in favour of their interpretation of recent events, one essential point is often overlooked: the conflict is rooted in decisions made long before any fighting broke out. To fully understand what provoked the gravest geopolitical crisis of our time – a necessary first step if we hope to pull back from the brink of a profound disaster – we must regard it as an outgrowth of two events that helped shape the course of the twentieth century and continue to resonate today. The Yalta Conference of 4‑11 February 1945, held in the Livadia palace on the peninsula’s south coast, and the Malta Summit of 2‑3 December 1989, held on two ships off Marsaxlokk Harbour, are either long-forgotten or poorly understood by many in the West. Though they were quite different in substance and historical context, both meetings sought (and ultimately failed) to produce a more stable European security order. The two conferences act as symbolic turning points, with the Yalta conference acting as the foundation for a 45-year period, while Malta symbolises the failure to build constructively on the foundations of the end of the Cold War, and thus signaled the onset of the 25-period of the cold peace. The power shift witnessed at Malta was now complemented by a discursive shift. The pattern of post–Cold War politics was established, and the conditions were created that ultimately exploded in Ukraine in 2014. The Ukrainian crisis is only the latest symptom of the long-term failure to reconcile the various interests on the European continent over the last quarter century.

This failure also resulted in the absence of a coherent strategy vis-à-vis Russia. In practical terms three options were available. First, full-scale engagement, which could have taken the form of Russia joining a transformed NATO or equivalent structure, as an equal founding member; or the abolition of NATO and the strengthening of the OSCE or some equivalent as the supreme security body on the continent. The second option was to adopt a hedging strategy, which effectively entailed the strengthening and enlargement of Western institutions, while trying to mitigate the effects on Russia and other neighbours. This is effectively the position adopted by NATO, but also by the European Union. Despite all the talk of ‘partnership’, from the very beginning Russia was an indigestible and alien entity for the ‘wider Europe’ model of development, whereby the Brussels-centric world would encompass the smaller states of Central and Southeastern Europe and find some way of managing the relationship with those left outside, above all through various mechanisms of ‘external governance’. The third option was a transformation of the type envisaged by Gorbachev. One variant of this was the conscious strategy of creating a ‘greater Europe’, which itself could take many forms. One of these was the creation of a ‘union of unions’, whereby the EU and Russia would create some sort of pan-continental union. This would have created a dynamic whereby the logic of conflict on the continent would be transcended, based on economic and security integration of the sort applied to Germany and Japan after the Second World War. The problem with this model, however, was that this model of European development would not only have transcended the logic of conflict on the continent, but it would also have transcended the need for the Atlantic security community in its traditional form. In other words, America’s role in European affairs would have changed. This is one reason why all ideas for the transformation of European politics have been condemned as part of the traditional Russian attempt to drive a ‘wedge’ between the two wings of the Atlantic alliance.

Keywords. USA; USSR; Russia; Ukraine; NATO; EU; cold war

Peregudov S.P.

The XXI Century Liberalism – Crisis or Rejuvenation? (p. 64-74)

Abstract. Substantiated in the article is the thesis of the quantitative and qualitative expansion of the “liberal inclination” in the party-political field of Western democracies. This expansion is based, on one hand, on the development of liberalism as such; on the other hand, on the adoption of the liberal creed by social democratic and conservative organizations. Under these circumstances, the process of “humanization” of liberalism is gaining momentum, while at the same time liberalism is shifting to the individual-group, “solidarity” dimension. A quickly developing synthesis of party and group principles results in the hybridization” of liberalism, which substantially increases its social and political weight and significance. Opposed to the “solidarity” trend, a rapid intensification of ultra-conservative anarcho-individualism is taking place. Both these extremes, as well as the political space between them, represent fundamentally different trends in mass perceptions, and their study of becomes increasingly important both for politics and for political science. In the struggle against the ultra-right fundamentalism the impact of different kinds of organizations and communities is increasing; the leading role among these is played by the international liberal think tank “Policy Network”.

Keywords. liberalism; neoliberalism; social liberalism; “human factor”; solidarism; skepticism; authoritarianism; hybridity; liberal conservatism; social democracy; ultraconservatism



Nisnevich Yu.A., Khakhunova A.K.

Methodology of Comparative Analysis and Classification of Public Administration Systems (p. 75-96)

Abstract. The paper studies three major trends in the modern theory of public administration: New Public Management, Neoweberianism, Governance. Authors trace the dynamics of the different theories and ideas in the field of governance and offer a conceptual framework for comparative analysis and classification of public administration systems in different countries. This framework could be useful in evaluating of conditions and prospects of development for different public administration systems. The paper highlights the dominant motives of each of the paradigms of governance and presents particular practices that characterize the implementation of the relevant models of public administration.

Keywords. quality of governance; models of public administration; New Public Management; Neoweberianism; Governance

Korgunyuk Yu.G.

The 2012-2014 Party Reform and the Structure of the Electoral Divides in Russia’s Regions (p. 97-113)

Abstract. The article analyses the results of elections to regional assemblies by the proportional system in Russia in 2012‑2014 from the point of view of the concept of electoral and political cleavages, which author has developed in his previous works. The author proposes methods for solving problems which appear because of not-coinciding number of contestants in various regions – this generates a different structure of electoral and political cleavages in there. The author also traces how the ‘party reform’ of 2012‑14 has influenced the cleavage structure in Russian regions. He concludes that proponents of the reform reached their aim if they wanted to confuse voters, because the increasing number of contestants multiplied political dimensions and, as a consequence, increased a number of electoral cleavages. Higher level of political competition in some regions was conditioned not by the appearance of new actors but by weakening of the administrative pressure on voters. Author also argues that stricter requirements for contestants in 2014 have led to decreasing number of electoral and, especially, political cleavages, but Russian regions, as before, are divided into two groups: those where authorities continue to control hard the electoral process and those where weakening of this control have brought inter-clan conflicts to the fore.

Keywords. cleavage theory; electoral cleavages; political cleavages; political parties; party systems; elections; political processes in Post-Soviet Russia

Glebov V.A., Makuhin A. V.

Role of the Local Government in the Formation of Civil Society in Poland (p. 114-122)

Abstract. Problem of development of strong local institutions of self-governance in modern Russia is one of the “sore points” in the general concept of Russian federalism. In the article analyzes the experience of building a strong system of local government in Republic of Poland, after a period of 1989 year. Collapse of the socialist system in Eastern Europe, with its own view the local government only as a system of party representation “on the ground” has prompted reform-minded part of Polish society to establish the concept of “self-governing Republic”. One of the most important principles that guided the architects of this fundamental reform, were principles of subsidiarity, with broad involvement of local communities in the management of administrative units, and principle of “economic autonomy”, which gave local authorities the real economic and financial capacity to develop their own territories. This fact allowed most of the local government system is not to be subsidized institution, which would be totally dependent on the distribution of funding by the central government authorities. Serious economic achievements of local governance institutions, such as their substantial contribution to the volume of the Polish GDP, eloquently testify to the highly successful results of the local self-governance reform in Poland.

Keywords. local government; civil society; subsidiarity; Republic of Poland; “Solidarity”; European Union; European Charter of Local Self-Government; local democracy; wojewodztwo (voivodeship)



Linetsky A.I.

Origin of Institutions by Selecting Modes of Behavior (p. 123-144)

Abstract. We treat institutions as a social phenomenon. Every fully developed institution consists of the three inseparable parts: 1) a standard behavioral practice; 2) a behavioral rule deemed as a symbolic  reflection of this practice in human minds and 3) an institute that should support this practice by applying sanctions to them who breach this rule. The roots of historical origin of institutions were not clear by today. We argue that the two evolutionary factors play a key role in institutions emerging. These factors are: 1) a transfer – unconscious or conscious – of human behavioral patterns from a person to a person and 2) a selection – natural or artificial – of these behavioral patterns. We studied a few of historical cases, in which old political institutions rapidly destroyed or successfully build new ones up by using of this tool, and the emergence of political institutions in a natural way as by-product of unconscious transfer of human behavioral patterns and of natural selection of them. The latter cases are obviously similar to ethologic cases that describe an origin of standard non-heritable habits of animals. We do believe that institutional technique, i.e. conscious human actions aimed to maintain a frequency of behavioral patterns in human populations, is the most effective tool for radical political changes.

Keywords. institutions; formal and informal institutions; evolution of behavior; behavioral standards; institutional engineering



Kozhokin Ye.M.

The Last of the Utopians? (M.Ya. Hefter: Ad Memoriam) (p. 145-156)

Abstract. Twenty years have passed since the day we lost Mikhail Hefter – soldier, historian, dissident. The author of an academic work on Hefter and his life credo calls him the Teacher of Life. His biography is woven into the fabric of life of the country and this biography is a part of the national history of the second half of the twentieth century. Especially it is impossible to imagine intellectual history of the country if one abstracts from this extraordinary personality.

Keywords. Hefter; Russia; utopia; leadership; freedom



Chugrov S.V.

Russia and Europe: Dialogue on Values in the Space of Civilization (p. 157-169)

Abstract. The Third “Berdyaev Readings” Forum was held in mid-April and its topic was “Russia and Europe: Dialogue on Values in the Space of Civilization.” It was organized by the Institute of Socio-economic and Political Research on the site of the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University. It is no coincidence, since the Kaliningrad region is a exceptional part of the country, located in the heart of Europe, on the territory of the Russian exclave or an enclave with a reference to the European Union. As explained by the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Fund Dmitry Badovsky, Kant’s saying that the “Creation takes not a moment but eternity” could be a slogan for this Kaliningrad forum. The agenda was focused on our fatherland’s enduring problems: what are Russia and Europe to each other? Who are we – the two cultures in the space of a single civilization, or two civilizations born from a single root? Whether active Russian-European historical and philosophical and cultural dialogue, and political engagement are possible in a world that is changing fast enough? These “Berdyaev readings” for the first time were held in a format of an international forum. Participants have also discussed the features of modern conservatism in Europe and in Russia. At the forum, prof. Boris Mezhuev presented a new anthology entitled The Self-knowledge. This review reproduces the most thought-provoking statements followed by the author’s comments.

Keywords. Russia; Europe, conservatism; civilizations; EU, European values; Berdyaev readings; ISEPR



Gutorov V.A.

Alexis de Tocqueville VS Astolphe de Custine: Scientific Discovery or Trivial Aberration? (p. 170-175)

Abstract. The author of the retort critically analyses a new version of patriotic rhetoric, which is revolving around the conception of the “Russian idea” and based on quite arbitrary interpretation of the Alexis de Tocqueville’s philosophic heritage. A. Savoysky by opposing the Tocqueville’s political philosophy to various ‘vituperators of Russia’ of the kind of Astolphe de Custine tries in vain to persuade the Russian scientific community that both the reputation of the great French thinker is ‘rehabilitated’ and ‘all the Russian people’ is ‘delivered’ from the charge of its bent for slavery as a result of his own ‘reconstruction’ of the original meaning and ‘ideological orientation’ of the famous juxtaposition of the USA and the imperial Russia in the end of the first volume of the book “On the Democracy in America”. The author believes, on the contrary, the Savoysky’ s attempt to substitute the notion ‘servitude’ for the word ‘ministration’ in the corresponding passage of the book is at variance with both the philosophic sense of the dichotomy ‘liberty/slavery’ by which A. de Tocqueville characterizes the contradictions of the European political thought in the epoch of modern and the elementary linguistic and cultural norms of perception of the notion ‘servitude’ in French language and mentality.

Keywords. Russia; Tocqueville; democracy; USA; rhetoric; patriotism; political philosophy; “Russian idea”; arbitrary interpretation; A. Savoysky



Sheynis V.L.

Russia: historic ways and crossroads in the XX century (p. 176-188)

Abstract. The new book by Yu.S. Pivovarov (Pivovarov Yu.S. Russkoe nastoyashchee i sovetskoe proshloe [Russian Present and Soviet Past]. Moscow – St. Petersburg: Center for Humanitarian Initiatives, University Book. 2014. 336 p. ISBN: 978‑5-98712‑202‑0) is in many ways distinctive from the mainstream literature on historiosophy and political science. Presented in the book is a fresh interpretation of the key processes and events of the Russian history. According to the author, the country experienced an anthropological disaster in the XX century, as several revolutionary currents collided in 1917: Europeanized part of the society renounced the traditional authority, the peasantry committed capture and redistribution of land, while the Bolshevik Revolution, taking advantage of the moment, terminated both. In the context of Russian history, the Bolshevik movement is labeled by Yu.S. Pivovarov as a variety of the “Russian Power” system, where power is fused with property – a term “vlastesobstvennost’” (“powerproperty”) is introduced in this regard – as well as a variety of a generalized model of power and society structure, going back to the times of Ivan the Terrible (“oprichnina – zemshchina”). Analyzed are the stages of formation and decomposition of this regime. According to the author, the 1980-s / 1990-s democratic revolution was unable to overcome Sovietism and Stalinism embedded in the socio-psychological condition of the society. It revitalized the cultural-historic phenomenon of the “red Black Hundreds” as a response to the process of modernization and the social reserve of the antidemocratic authority. Turning to the prospects for change of the current situation, the author concludes that either Russia will be a free and responsible country, or it will not exist at all.

Keywords. Yu.S. Pivovarov; Russia; the February Revolution; anthropological disaster; the Bolshevik Revolution; the Bolshevik regime; “powerproperty”

Latov Yu.V.

Russian Society: Responses to the Challenges of Time (p. 189-191)

Abstract. The reviewed monograph (Rossiiskoe obshchestvo i vyzovy vremeni. Kniga pervaya. Pod red. M.K. Gorshkova i V.V. Petukhova [Russian Society and the Challanges of Time. Book I. Ed. by M.K. Gorshkov, V.V. Petukhov]. Moscow: Ves’ Mir Publ. 2015. 336 p.) represents a thorough study of how Russians perceive and react to the key issues of modern international and national politics, including the Ukraine crisis.

Keywords. M.K. Gorshkov; V.V. Petukhov; Russia; society; crises


See more: