XIV April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development, Moscow, 2013
On April 2-5, 2013, the XIV HSE April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development was hosted by the HSE (National Research University Higher School of Economics) in Moscow (http://conf.hse.ru/en/2013/).
The conference focused on a wide range of issues including political processes. Members of RC36 organized a section on political power comprised of four sessions: “Concept of power and democracy”, “Power in local communities”, “Soft law and political power”, “Power, violence and human rights”.
Mark Haugaard (National University of Ireland, Galway) re-interprets the three-dimensional power debate through the lens of Arendt’s concept of concerted power (“Power over and democracy”). He argues that power (power over) constitutes a duality whereby the very same process which leads to domination, also constitutes conditions of possibility for democracy, thus normatively desirable. If power over is not purely coercive but based on structural constraints that support democratic practices (concerted power) it should not be explained in terms of violence, domination and zero-sum game. Structural content of concerted power entails that the subject of power is not a means to an end but can gain from structural constraints. Every time concerted power conflict takes place, structures are reproduced which reinforce the democratic game, which enables those who have been momentarily defeated, to prepare for another round in which they may be victors. Thus concerted power over is positive-sum. This interpretation not only leads to normative rehabilitation of ‘power over’ but has significant implications for democratic theory. It entails that it is not enough to identify processes of domination and try to escape from them. Rather, the task is the more complex one of deciding when the very same process of power is desirable and when it constitutes domination. In practice this means that power becomes a highly qualified scalar phenomenon, in which all power processes are to the some extent normatively desirable and undesirable at one and the same time.
Valeri Ledyaev (HSE, Moscow) focuses on the conceptions of power used in community power studies (“’Power’ in empirical research”). He argues that not all the conceptions of power are used in empirical research; some of them remain purely theoretical constructions. Most researchers define power as “power over”, domination and a zero-sum game. Differences between the conceptions of power used in empirical research relate to three major problems in defining power: (1) actual/potential problem, (2) intention, interests and power, and (3) agency structure and power. Pluralists usually explain power as an episodic (agency) phenomenon, a type of social behavior; power presupposes open conflict of preferences between actors and can be identified in the process of decision-making. Elitists and Marxists are more inclined to define power in dispositional terms and pay attention to hidden forms of power (non-decisionmaking, the rule of anticipated reactions, manipulation etc.); power is viewed as potential, capacity, and a property of institutions and structures. During the past three decades the split between different schools in the study of power has largely been overcome. Modern studies of power in local communities based on urban regime theory usually employ balanced conceptions of power, merging “power over”, “power to” and “power with” explanations. Conceptual innovations lead to new focus in the study of power: how can one achieve coordination of effort among major actors in local communities and get things done in the absence of overarching command structure?
Alla Chirikova (Institute of Sociology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow) described the structure of power in a small Russian community (“Local elites and regimes in small Russian towns: formal and informal power”). She concentrated on formal and informal resources of power of major local actors – mayors, heads of district administrations, business elites, party leaders, security officials. Her analysis was based on deep interviews with politicians, local officials, experts and businessmen in two small towns in the Perm region. The outcome of study confirmed the initial hypothesis that formal position does not guarantee effective power to its occupants: only the combination of formal and informal resources makes local actors really powerful. Therefore they are motivated to form sectoral and/or cross-sectoral coalitions able to realize their strategic and personal aims. Informal resources can faster solve difficult urban issues and effectively reconcile local conflicts. Configurations of power potential and resources of formal leaders (mayors and heads of district administrations) are different and largely depend on relationships with their teams. In one of the investigated communities the mayor completely dominated local affairs while in the other the mayor was less influential than some of his subordinates. In any case, leadership in local community is not automatic; it is a result of permanent efforts of actors and depends on their abilities to achieve cooperation between actors with complementary resources.
Dmitry Seltser (Tambov University, Tambov) discussed the inaugural elections held in Macedonia and Russia at the state and local levels (“Inaugural elections in Macedonia and Russia: a comparative analysis”). Both countries at one point in time were members of larger socialist states. Macedonia used to be a part of the former Yugoslavia while Russia was the main state making up the former Soviet Union. There are similarities in the fact that there were fundamental limitations in both Russia and Macedonia. In Russia those limitations were large, while in Macedonia they were less significant but still present. In both countries authorities were not consistent in the manner in which democratic elections were established and conducted. In fact, it is more accurate to say that Russian authorities were more consistent in their lack of desire to conduct such elections. Such elections were held only after the famous events of 1993. Recall that from 1991-1993 no such elections were held: not at the federal, regional, or local levels. As such, the Russian ‘inaugural elections’ can be arguably categorized as deferred. In Macedonia, meanwhile, only the country’s Parliament was elected through classic democratic mechanisms. The biggest differences reside with the fact that democratization in Macedonia took place with much less political conflict and was faster, more consistent and more purposeful. The country did not divide along ‘red’ and ‘white’ lines. Political parties played and continue to play a significant role in national politics. Successive parliamentary elections always produced new party leaders in Macedonia. Consequently, there was and always is a revitalization of the political elite in Macedonia. In Russia the political reality through the 1990s was all about conflicts and societal division. ‘Inaugural elections’ were therefore delayed and when they took place analysts were hard pressed to call them democratic.
Yury Fogelson (HSE, Moscow) focuses on the trends in power and political practice under the influence of changes in the legal system (“Law and power in a polycentric legal system”). He argues that at the present time there is a destruction of the state monopoly not only on law-making, but also on law enforcement function. Legal monism exhausts its own resources, and the world is gradually moving from a monocentric to a polycentric legal system. It is possible that in the future a kind of global polycentric legal system will be formed and references to sovereignty will become irrelevant - both politically and legally. Under these conditions, a new problem in democratic political practices arises. The very principle of the rule of law is put into question. The most important feature of legal monism is the ability of law to provide the legal certainty and predictability of behavior of both power holders and power subjects. In a polycentric legal system this practice is impeded significantly. Therefore, the actual problem is to justify opportunities and prospects for the principle of the rule of law and predictability of government in a new a polycentric legal system.
Lucio Picci (University of Bologna, Bologna) analyses relations between power and law (“Hard-Law, Soft-Law and Reputational incentives”), arguing that the strength of reputational incentives, which vary across contexts and domains of application of law, is an important constraining factor not only in explaining the varying level of compliance to both hard- and soft-law provisions, but also the emergence of one or the other. To some scholars international law is indeed “law” because the presence of strong reputational incentives amends for the absence of centralized enforcement. To others, international law is at most cheap talk, while treaties and other types of softer agreements more or less rubberstamp intentions which states would pursue anyway. Picci argues that neither is the case, and that international law should be interpreted as an information processing institution which provides information about states preferences, characteristics and capabilities. Such an institution is effective because, in the presence of strong informational asymmetries, it provides correct information. It is relatively economical, because it avoids duplication of effort by the states. It is of great import, because the information that it generates allows predictability of the course of action of states, which in turn guarantees the functioning of international order, by favouring cooperation and fostering security.
Vadim Damier (HSE, Moscow) addresses the ecological movement in West Germany in the 1970s and 1980s, and it relation to political power (“Ecological movement in Germany and political power: from civil society initiatives to the Green party”). Being one of the “new social movements”, which became a kind of a historical successor to the “revolt of the late 1960s”, it gives political and social scientists a wealth of material for the study of the phenomenon of social protest and social movements in general. Like other “new social movements”, the ecological movement was born, on the one hand, from the discontent of citizens with the bureaucratic tendencies of the “welfare state”, which, as they believed, ignored their needs and interests. Emerging “legitimation crises” undermined the principles of representative democracy, encouraged people to organise civil society initiatives (Bürgerinitiativen) and tried to remind the government of its requirements. Aggravation of environmental problems, the growing awareness of the threat of ecological crisis and the rapid development of nuclear energy (especially after the “oil shock” in 1973) contributed to the revitalization of civil initiatives dealing with environmental problems. From the first request and petitions against the construction of nuclear power plants and other nuclear, energy, industrial and transport facilities, they shifted to mass street protests and civil disobedience, from a reminder to the state of their needs - to acting against the state and without it. In the context of the movement, new values and (on this base) new concepts of social structure emerged: from the combination of the elements of representative and direct (“basic”) democracy to the replacing of the first by the second. As part of attempts to combine representative and direct democracy, the Green Party was founded, originally as a “parliamentary supplement” of ecological movement. But the inclusion in the system of representation had its own logic, and eventually led the party (which does not want to risk the electoral results) to the integration into the existing political mechanisms of society and to the desire to show itself as a “normal” and “responsible” force. In the new social, economic and political climate of the 1990s, the ecological movement in Germany began to decline. However, its experience, forms, methods and views have had a significant influence on subsequent forms of protest movements.
Irina Soboleva (HSE, Moscow) focused on mobilization and motivation of participants of anti-government protests and pro-governments rallies in Moscow in Winter-Spring 2011-2012 (“Sociology of Pro- and Anti- Government Rallies in Russia”). The survey was designed to evaluate competing theories of protest behavior and explore how media preferences, interest in discussion of political affairs, awareness of world affairs and preferable sources of information (traditional vs on-line) effect the protest participation and electoral choices. Target population were citizens involved in the protest activities on the both political sides - pro-Putin’ rallies and anti-Putin’ protests. The groups were surveyed at the place of protest (stadiums, streets and squares) over the course of four different protest events between February 23 and March 5. Among the commonalities of both groups – the desire to discuss political affairs and be aware of political agenda; they tend to look similar on the socio-economic criteria. However, the pro- and anti-government participants significantly differ in their media habits: most of Putin’s supporters prefer traditional media, discuss politics in person, work in state sector of economy and prefer Russian social media as “vkontakte” and “odnoklassniki”. On the contrary, the protesters use on-line media and discuss politics through the social networks (mostly “facebook” and “vkontakte”), are employed in the private sector and do not use traditional media (TV) as an information source. The most significant difference between the two groups lies in the density of their networks: while every anti-government rally participant had almost 15 familiar persons on the very place of meeting, the ordinary pro-government participant had from 1 to 5 friends and relatives, which shared his political attitudes and came at the rally with him.
Grigory Lukyanov (HSE, Moscow) discussed the problem of understanding and perception of the universality of human rights in the Asian and African developing countries (“Human Rights in the "developing" society in conditions of power transition: normative discourse and political reality (Libya case)”. He argues that many provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly Resolution 217 A (III) of December 10, 1948, not just have no response among the populations of some countries, but are in conflict with a range of well-established norms and values. His conclusion is based on the content, event and discourse analyses of the doctrinal and declarative documents, speeches, interviews, reports of research centers and non-governmental organizations. He argues that the phenomenon of human rights should be considered not only as a law enforcement or controversial practice but also as an element of political discourse. He shows that the constructs called ‘human rights’ by Gaddafi’s regime preserved after the collapse of Jamahiriya in 2011. However, the number of executions, assassinations, tortures and other crimes against people after the overthrow of Gaddafi has only increased. At the same time the rights that had been accustomed due to the "Green Book" and the "Green Declaration of Human Rights" by Gaddafi (right for revolution, the right for self-government, right for war) are provided now.
Alexei Rjabinin and Sophia Ragozina (HSE, Moscow) explore issues related to the differences in understanding of human rights in East and West (“Political power, religion and women's rights in Egypt and Tunisia before and after the ‘Arab Spring’"). A brief overview of history and traditions of Islam was presented to show that the Quranic statements regarding the status of women are quite vague. So since the second half of the 20th century there were many debates on the subject between “modernist” and “traditionalist” Islamic scholars. Despite some common patterns of the political development in Egypt and Tunisia the situation in the field of women's rights is quite different owing to the genesis and peculiarities of the new political systems and the scale of international involvement (intervention) in the political processes in the countries. In both countries many cases of violation of women's rights were recorded during the last decades. Sources of violence are deeply embedded in the patriarchal political culture in Egypt and, to a lesser extent, in Tunisia. However, no “repressive” laws on women's rights have been adopted in these countries after moderate Islamists took power.
Alexander Sungurov and Ekaterina Glukhova (HSE, St. Petersburg) analysed the role and activities of the Human Rights Commissioners during the rise of civic activity of 2011-2012 (“Human Rights Commissioner Institute during the period of the rise of civic activity: Comrade for strangers and stranger for comrades”). How have they reacted to new issues and violation of political rights? Have they become a part of the governmental machine or mediators? The survey of the commissioners’ activities in St. Petersburg, Sverdlovsk and Samara was intended to answer these questions. Collected data allow us to conclude that ombudsmen in Russia are turning from a “complaint body” into a mediator between the state and society. Their reactive (appeals respose) activity is becoming less important and much more attention is paid to violations of political rights; commissioners substantially enlarge their efforts in the civic education field and legislation monitoring and are more actively involved in cooperation with Human Rights NGOs.
Alexander Nezdyurov (HSE, St. Petersburg) focuses on political and legal instruments of state protection from various forms of violence (“The state violence prevention and human rights guarantees: Russian and international law and practice”). His main conclusion is: the effectiveness of state protection from violence largely depends on power potential and resources of civil society, media, internet communities and mutual trust between security agencies and law-enforcement agencies. However, representatives of these agencies have different views, insisting on strengthening of legal regulation and complication of law-enforcement techniques.
Report compiled by Mark Haugaard, Valeri Ledyaev, Alina Vladimirova
Valeri Ledyaev, Professor of Politics, National Research University - Higher School of Economics +7(499)7423813 (home), +7(926)2356305 (mob.) e-mail: Valeri_ledyaev@mail.ru
Alina Vladimirova, assistant professor, National Research University - Higher School of Economics. +7(916)1083582 (mob.) e-mail: email@example.com
Published on Tuesday, October 23 2012 by Kevin Ryan