State, Capital, and the Transformation of the Neoliberal Policy Paradigm in Putin’s Russia
This chapter traces the evolution of the neoliberal policy paradigm in Putin’s Russia. It deals with an apparent paradox: while Putin’s rule has always been based on a sharp rhetorical break with the disastrous first decade of Russia’s post-Soviet history, he nevertheless continued many of the neoliberal policies of his predecessor, in some areas carrying them out far more consistently than Yeltsin ever could. Despite his criticism of the oligarchs, Putin allowed them to expand their wealth on an unprecedented scale. Since the mid 2000s, the government has increasingly experimented with dirigiste policies, yet this divergence from neoliberalism did not fundamentally threaten the position of the oligarchs. Eventually, the government settled on a combination of neoliberalism and dirigisme that enhances the political stability of the regime at the expense of economic growth. However, lack of growth itself undermines stability, and the unpopular reforms, such as the increase of the retirement age, erode the regime’s legitimacy. At the same time, Kremlin’s standoff with the West since 2014 has put a serious strain on its relationship with big capital, which is highly integrated into the global economy. These multiple tensions make the future of Russian politics highly uncertain.