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From Boom to Bust: Hardship, Mobilization & Russia’s Social Contract

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-127
Number of pages15
Issue number2
Early online date27 Mar 2017
Accepted/In press26 Oct 2016
E-pub ahead of print27 Mar 2017


King's Authors


This essay revisits the debate about Russia’s “social contract,” arguing that the ability of the Russian system to maintain macro-political stability in the face of significant and prolonged micro-level economic hardship hinges on a peculiarly disengaged relationship between Russian citizens and their state. Russian citizens are seen clearly to understand the failings of the political system and leadership, reinforcing habits of “involution” learned over decades of institutional dysfunction. A review of recent protest movements, indeed, demonstrates that general quiescence coexists with a deep-seated antipathy toward the country’s ruling elite, which lends particular animus to grassroots contention in a variety of settings. The question for Russia’s sociopolitical future, however, remains an old one: can reactive civic mobilization lead to a proactive process of bottom-up agenda setting?.

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