chapter  5
46 Pages

Fields of battle: power- culture, property, and remaking fields

Property and governance are central to neoliberal market reforms, but their creation and consolidation require legitimation and reification of power and risk contention over new normality in authority and practice.2 In post-Soviet Russia, the first battle over normal authority and practice was managers versus employees; the field of battle then expanded to managers versus owners and shareholders, and then oligarchs versus Vladimir Putin’s siloviki. This last act opened with the showdown between Putin and Mikhail Khodorkovskii. Khodorkovskii’s oil giant Iukos embraced Western transparency and business methods. Rich and restless, he funded political parties and hinted he would leave business for other ventures. Seeing him as a threat, siloviki used kompromat (tax fraud material) to arrest him in October 2003. In December 2004, state-owned Rosneft took Iukos’s main division Iuganskneftegaz in lieu of tax debts. This grew into a grander process: in 2005 state-owned weapons export monopolist Rosoboroneksport began accumulating metallurgical and industrial firms. Its daughter Rostekhnologiia (Rossiiskaia Tekhnologiia), run by Putin ally Sergei Chemezov, became the main engine of this state empire. Siloviki were on the move for property and the master field of power.3 Putin’s state elite created a new narrative of normality: a technocratic state elite running property empires to rebuild the economic order and claiming greater wisdom, capacity, and authority than civil society. That new normality and the actors who championed it faced a supreme challenge in the 2008 global meltdown: could the new dirigisme allow Russia to ride out the crisis and ultimately prosper, or would it lead to conflict over scarce resources and injustice (a siloviki fear)4 and entrenchment of state elite power at any cost?