Running to stand still: aggressive immobility and the limits of power in Russia

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The common conception of Russian politics as an elite game of rent-seeking and autocratic management masks a great deal of 'mundane' policymaking, and few areas of social and economic activity have escaped at least some degree of reform in recent years. This article takes a closer look at four such reform attempts -- involving higher education, welfare, housing and regional policy -- in an effort to discern broad patterns governing how and when the state succeeds or fails. The evidence suggests that both masses and mid-level elites actively defend informality -- usually interpreted in the literature as an agent-led response to deinstitutionalization and the breakdown of structure -- creating a strong brake on state power. More than a quarter century into the post-Soviet period, this pattern of 'aggressive immobility' -- the purposeful and concerted defense by citizens of a weakly institutionalized state -- has in fact become an entrenched, structural element in Russian politics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-347
Number of pages15
JournalPost-Soviet Affairs
Issue number5
Early online date6 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Russia
  • politics
  • public policy
  • informality
  • institutionalization


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