Vienna, April 30 – Russia today is not “a corporate state,” as some suggest, but rather “a corporation-state,” a form of societal organization in which top leaders focus on economic competitiveness rather than responding to political demands of the populations on the territories they control, a Moscow commentator has suggested.
In an article posted on the APN website, Andrei Fursov argues that the Russian Federation represents fundamentally new kind of state, one that is driven by the demands of globalization and that is likely to become increasingly common in other places as well (http://www.apn.ru/publications/article16920.htm).
The essence of this new kind of regime, according to Fursov, consists of the following: It is “a power-property structure, the goals and functioning of which are primarily economic” rather than political and which are directed at reducing the costs the regime must pay rather than responding to the demands of its population.
Indeed, Fursov continues, such an entity, arising in response to the challenges of globalization, views such demands as “obligations” it does not want to pay lest the “corporation state” become less competitive in relation to other similarly constituted entities elsewhere.
“As soon as economic competitiveness in the global market is proclaimed the main task for the state, the regime can forget about the social and national composition of the state [and the latter] begins to conduct itself as a corporation in which everything is defined by economic competitiveness.”
Such a new form of power relations should not be confused with a nation state of the traditional kind or a corporate state like that of Mussolini. On the one hand, while such an entity may resemble a nation state externally, this resemblance is only “a shell” within which clans rather than populations determine outcomes.
And on the other hand, this new entity must not be confused with a corporate state, Fursov argues. The latter, “be it of the Mussolini or Hitlerite type, represents itself as a type of nation state in its ‘welfare’ form, with a powerful social and all-national orientation.”
The nation state, Fursov argues, is “the highest form of the development of statehood, of the state as an institution. The logic of the development of this institution … consists in the inclusion of an ever greater number of the population within the state as citizens and the every greater socialization and nationalization of the state.”
As such, he says, the nation state makes all the population of the country, all the members of the nation (the ethnic form of organization, the basis of which is the individual) [its] citizens. The state and nation correspond. And at the same time, the highest form of state is the ‘welfare state.’”
Thus, while the corporate state casts itself as the expression of the nation and focuses on the social welfare of the population as it defines both the population and welfare, the corporation state views the population as either economically productive or a burden on the state.
In many ways, Fursov says, globalization is forcing many nation states in this new direction. But the Russian Federation is “as sometimes has been the case in the past,” is showing the way to this “nightmare of ‘a bright future’” precisely because its civil society is so weak.
Consequently, even though it “began later than the West to form” such a state – one that Fursov here calls “a corporatocratia” – the Russian Federation has “very quickly caught up and in a certain sense surpassed [the countries of the Western world] along this path.”
Fursov insists that this trend is not irreversible in either Russia or elsewhere. But the Moscow analyst suggests that it is an exceedingly powerful one that can change only by a new focus on politics rather than economics, by the reassertion of the modern view that the state should serve the interests of the people rather than those of the economy.
Fursov’s essay cited above is part of the ongoing debate on “Gazprom and the State.” But he presented his ideas more fully in an essay entitled “The State as a Corporation” in Ekspert-Ukraina (Kyiv), no. 7 (2006), p. 52-57.