Vienna, June 26 – Russia today does not have politics in the Western meaning of that word, according to one of Moscow’s leading scholars on political life. And it does not have a political science either, despite the fact that many in both Russia and the West would label the man who made these observations a political scientist.
In an interview posted online last week, Vladimir Pastukhov, a Moscow scholar who earlier outlined what he said politics and political science in Russia should look like (see his articles at http://www.politstudies.ru/arch/authors/481.htm), now says he does not see either in place (http://www.apn.ru/publications/article17284.htm).
Russians “live in a ‘pre-political’ state where the differentiation of state and civil society has not yet taken place and where the state in general has not freed itself completely from society,” Pastukhov argues. As a result, “power relations are not in the end political relations.”
Instead, he argues as have many others, what most call political life in Russia is in fact about “clans and family ties” but are “not political in the narrow sense of this word.” And because that is so, the Moscow scholar insists, there cannot be and is not any genuine political science in the Russian Federation.
Despite that devastating claim, Pastukhov acknowledges that “on the other hand there is a quite interesting and unique Russian political philosophy which among other things has deep roots,” something he said that he does “not consider to be worse” than the existence of a genuine political science.
One example of precisely this “interesting” and “unique” Russian political philosophy was offered by political analyst Aleksandr Kustaryev in an extended essay entitled “England and Scotland” posted on the same APN portal the day after Pastukhov’s interview (http://www.apn.ru/publications/print17294.htm).
In this essay, which draws on both Western political science and the recent experience of the former Soviet space, Kustaryev argues that the Scottish drive toward independence represents the latest manifestation of “post-modern neo-nationalism,” a movement that reflects the needs of politicians to have their own state apparatus rather than a demand of the populations for independence.
As such, he says, “the collapse of Great Britain (if it takes place) will be more like the collapse of the USSR than the collapse of the British Empire in an earlier historical epoch.” Moreover, “Anglo-Scottish relations help us to understand that the end of the USSR was not a belated realization” of the nationalism but something else.
Not only do the two cases point to the importance of elites in this new process, but they suggest, Kustaryev adds, that “the most Scotlanders are in the political establishment in London [and by extension, the more non-Russians in Moscow] the stronger will be the separatist tendencies” among those who did not rise to either.
But the Scottish example also points to something else, the Moscow political writer adds. It shows that the process of devolution is something likely to come in waves rather than be a last act of the political drama, and it indicates that countervailing forces like corporate interests may reverse these trends.
Thus, “the world of sovereign states in this sense is becoming ever more like the world of financial corporations,” which sometimes combine and sometimes divide in response to larger forces of the self-interest of their various elites and their success in pursuing the goals of the latter.
This may not be political science in the Western sense, but it constitutes the kind of insight into politics that almost any political scientist in whatever country would be proud to call his own. Consequently, Pastukhov’s observations are important, but they are no reason to ignore what Moscow writers on politics are producing.