Research

Areas Of Interest

Areas of interest: institutional economics (various streams ranging from the ‘old’ institutionalism of T. Veblen and J. Commons to the ‘new’ institutional economics of D. North and O. Williamson), economic sociology, economic sociology, post-Soviet transformations, studies in extralegal behavior, bureaucracy

Ongoing Research

'International network of experts on the issues of administrative reform in post-Soviet countries'

Summary:

An international workshop on the issues of administrative reform in post-Soviet countries funded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada was organized from August 26 to 29, 2006 at Memorial University [Program].

The discussion was focused on comparative modernities, one of the most challenging subjects of political sociology and interdisciplinary studies in the social sciences. Do all countries follow the same path of development? What problems exist in the countries on the way to catch-up modernization, i.e., the countries that aim at reproducing Western institutional and technological structures? What are the chances to decrease the distance between these countries and countries-leaders, and what independent variables should be taken into consideration while assessing them? These questions apply to a number of former socialist and less developed countries, as well as to some territories and rural areas in Canada.

An international network of experts on the issues of administrative reform in post-Soviet countries, AdmReform.Net, emerged from this meeting [ http://www.arts.mun.ca/reformnet/]

 

‘Particularities of Power in the post-Soviet Context: Theoretical Considerations and Empirical Studies of Bureaucracy’ (project supported by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada). Collaborators: Dr. Nadezhda Radina, Dr. Karine Clément, Prof. Svetlana Glinkina and Dr. Natalia Aparina

Summary:

Reforms in post-Soviet countries have not led, as widely hoped, to the emergence of democracy and a free market. Instead, we observe the strengthening of political capitalism and the spread of closed networks with economic transactions being conducted within largely informal small groups. Authoritarian tendencies in politics, including an overwhelming control over electronic mass media by government, are increasingly discernible behind the façade of formally free elections. Hopes for a stable socioeconomic system are dimming as a result of a series of crises in the banking sphere and the rise of internal terrorism.

There is no clear understanding of the reasons why reforms have failed in post-Soviet countries in general (with the notable exception of the Baltic States), and in Russia in particular. Neither international nor Russian scholars have developed convincing theories that shed light upon the recent mutations and, even more important, upon their mid- and long-term outcomes. There is an acute need for such understanding, especially taking into consideration the impact that developments in Russia and other post-Soviet societies may be expected to have upon the international order. Dependency of the world market upon Russia’s energy resources can be expected to increase in the future given that it is one of the world’s major oil producers and has large natural gas reserves, the major alternative to oil. (Petro-Canada currently advances in a large investment project: a multi-billion dollar investment in the Russian gas fields and a liquefied natural gas development is expected). This country still possesses a large arsenal of atomic and conventional weapons. And its involvement in a series of regional conflicts (for example, in Moldova and Georgia) could prove to be either a stabilizing or a destabilizing factor of international order. Last, but not least, Russia has recently taken a high profile as a site of terrorist activity, at a time when terrorism is high on the international agenda.

The proposed research will focus on the particularities of power in the post-Soviet context. One cannot understand what is going on in today’s Russia without inquiring into the nature of post-Soviet bureaucracy and its characteristic modes of exercising power. The state bureaucracy plays a key role in the political, economic and social life of contemporary Russia. It structures, through particular modes of exercising power, all interactions in multiple spheres. An analogy can be drawn between the functional role of bureaucracy today and the impact of organized crime on Russian economy and society in the mid-1990s. As it was impossible in the 1990s to understand economic and political life without reference to organized crime, now there is a comparable need for comprehending the key role played by state bureaucrats in the same arenas.

There exist two kinds of links between, on the one hand, organized crime that structured everyday life in the 1990s and, on the other, the state bureaucracy. The first link is direct, involving a conversion of people previously associated with organized crime into elected officials and bureaucrats. (The results of the elections held in the summer of 2004 in Vladivostok, the capital of the Russian Far East, might be taken as illustration as well as the criminal past of one of the candidates at the recent presidential elections in Ukraine, who was initially named president but then dismissed as a result of the popular uprising). The second is less manifest but more important: both the power relationships embodied in organized crime and those embodied in the post-Soviet State bureaucracy take a similar form. Both are characterized by lack of feedback between the persons invested with power and the subjects of that power. As a result, obedience to commands has nothing to do with consent, or often, even with rational considerations. The major problem of post-Soviet transformations derives from the fact that the very nature of power remains unchanged. The administrative reforms undertaken in Russia are a necessary but far insufficient condition of the real change.

The proposed research will seek to describe and analyze a particular type of power as the cement of Russian society at every level: from the different spheres of everyday life to political power at the federal level. Taking into consideration the impact of imposed power on processes in diverse spheres of everyday life, no one conventional approach derived from sociology, psychology, economics or political science would alone be sufficient. The research methodology must be interdisciplinary and innovative, with a heavy emphasis on theories recently developed in institutional economics and economic sociology. The data will be collected with the help of in-depth structured interviews and a pilot survey.