Abstracts 3, 2019

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Political Theories

Irina Shmerlina

Social Form: Contours of Concept

Keywords: social form, political form, converted form, institution, semiotic phenomenon, causative force, sociality, interdisciplinary analysis

The article develops the theme of the political form, the discussion of which started on the pages of the Journal of Politeia in 2012—2016, and contains a conceptual elaboration of a more general concept of the social form. The author builds her model around the interdisciplinary concept of sociality, which treats the latter as a supraspecific phenomenon. In general terms, social form is defined as a sign complex, through which this or that type of interaction is realized. Social form represents a special class of social interactions and specifies them on such grounds as stability and repeatability of the external configuration of interactions; materiality; invariance of structural components; integrity. Social life is organized along two key types of forms. The first type includes elementary (ethological) social forms that are in principle common for a human being and other social animals. The second type includes institutional forms that are specific for human communities. In contrast to an ethological form, which is regarded as a stable way of social interactions independent of individual interpretation that are realised as a system of statuses / roles, a social institution is a system of statuses / roles that has a reflexive form. A promising area of the analysis of institutional phenomena, including political institutions, is their interpretation from the perspective of a converted form. Scientific researchers are interested in the category of social form largely due to its inherent causative force. Being a semiotic phenomenon, social form is built as one or another semantic complex and thereby is imposed upon the subject. Both elementary and institutional forms, “simple” as well as converted, possess a causative force.

DOI: 10.30570/2078-5089-2019-94-3-6-32

Pages: 6-32

Cyril Fokin

Evolution of Institutions of Political Authority: Theoretical Framework

Keywords: political authority, evolution, cooperation, supernatural punishment, religion

The article is devoted to the problem of political authority that is viewed as a fact of a social reality. The author regards authority as a sociopolitical institution rooted in the biological nature of a human being and evolving throughout the history. The article suggests a framework for a holistic theory of political authority and highlights four stages of its development. The first stage is (political) authority in its pre-human version. These are the forms of leadership generated by the need to solve the functional problem of cooperation among social animals and imply a mobile structure that is based on trust in the leader and is responsive to changes, rather than a rigid hierarchy. The second stage is the emergence of a functional replication of the “animal authority” within the first human communities, formation of the institution of authority and its mergence with religious ideas, the emergence of faith in supernatural agents and supernatural punishment. The third stage is the development of political authority as a religious authority, which led to the establishment of the institution of delegating power from someone who lacks physical properties — God, Gods or state as a “mortal God”. The fourth stage is the demystified political authority, which is established in a secular modern society, but retains some elements of its predecessors. According to the author, such an empirical approach to understanding political authority opens up a possibility, among other things, to solve some problems of normative theories, allowing a clearer understanding of the role of authority in the political life of a society.

DOI: 10.30570/2078-5089-2019-94-3-33-54

Pages: 33-54

Konstantin Sklovsky

Political and Legal Aspects of Theory of Gift

Keywords: theory of gift, aporia of gift, totalitarianism, power, free will, predestination, money, alienation, origin of law

Abstract. The theory of gift, used today mainly in Anthropology, has a considerable heuristic potential for other humanities. The article represents an attempt to apply this theory to politics and law.

In the political sphere, the theory of gift opens up a possibility of novel approaches to understanding the nature of political conflicts, especially in the societies that undergo a crisis, transition etc. The author does not intend to cover all such approaches and focuses only on some of them. In particular, the author draws attention to the enormous energy hidden in those structures, relations, and political instincts that remained from the system of gifts. He proposes a hypothesis that the political cataclysms of the last century can be explained (along with other reasons) by the attempts to restore relations of gift that grew out of the active participation of broad masses in politics, which led to the reduction of state and law into the direct connection between the masses and the leader.

The author explains the disintegration of the system of gifts by the advent of money, which he views as one of the most large-scale factors of social transformation. Money called into existence a contract of purchase and sale as a negotiation about a price, which laid foundation for the whole system of modern law. Because a binding decision on price is possible only under the condition of free will of parties to a contract, the author considers that buying and selling became a source of free will that went beyond the law.

In the final part of the article, the author turns to the legal implications of the theory of gift. First, he acknowledges the inability of Legal Science to provide a convincing answer to both the question of the nature of money and genesis of law. After that he shows that the theory of gift allows for a deeper understanding of the basic legal concepts, which in turn can be useful for solving many legal issues that cannot be resolved within the framework of the established doctrines.

DOI: 10.30570/2078-5089-2019-94-3-55-86

Pages: 55-86

Social Consciousness

Alexei Miller

Growth of the Significance of Institutional Factor in Politics of Memory Causes and Implications

Keywords: memory narrative, cultural memory, politics of memory, commemoration, institutionalization of politics of memory

The beginning of the 21st century was marked not only by the change in the common European narrative of memory, but also by the rethinking of the very nature of the cultural memory. This sphere came to be 

seen as an integral part of politics rather than a space for eradication of the political. As a result, the previous approach that focused on overcoming disagreements both within and between individual countries gave way to an antagonistic approach, in which memory turns out to be a field of irreconcilable conflicts. These shifts resulted in the intensive institutionalization of the politics of memory. Other important consequences include change in the methodology of studying politics of memory; the focus on the interaction of actors and commemoration as a way of constituting groups; a different understanding of the role of a researcher as a participant in the processes that he/she analyzes.

In Russia, the institutionalization of politics of memory started with some delay. The turning point was 2012 that witnessed the creation of the Russian Historical Society and the Russian Military Historical Society, the start of the elaboration of the Historical and Cultural Standard and the project that later developed into the theme parks Russia — My History, as well as the adoption of the law on foreign agents. In the same year, the Immortal Regiment initiative was born, and a year later, the Last Address initiative was created. The article discusses the role of various actors in the process of institutionalization of the politics of memory in the Russian Federation and the new conditions, under which historians and researchers of the cultural memory find themselves today.

DOI: 10.30570/2078-5089-2019-94-3-87-102

Pages: 87-102

Olga Malinova

Who Forms Official Historical Narrative and How? (Analysis of Russian Practices)

Keywords: politics of memory, mnemonic actor, official historical narrative, commemorative speeches, commemoration, professional community

The article is devoted to the analysis of the practice of forming and articulating the official historical narrative in contemporary Russia on the basis of three cases that make it possible to trace the interactions between various groups involved in constructing the narrative. The study of the thematic repertoire of the commemorative speeches allows to trace in the speeches of the head of state the result of the collective work of the Presidential Administration. The author shows that the formation of the memory infrastructure supporting the official narrative of the thousand-year Russia became more or less systematic only under Putin’s third presidential term. The 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution of 1917 provides an interesting platform for studying the discussions within the ruling elite. The analysis of the preparation process for the commemoration reveals a certain competition of opinions at the decision-making stage and the Presidential Administration’s desire to balance them. Given the weak consistency of the official historical narrative, this pattern might be typical for the events, the interpretation of which has not taken shape and/or is not subject to securitization. The transcripts of the meetings of Presidents Putin and Medvedev with the “historical community” — scientists and teachers — give an idea of the nature of the interaction between the authorities and the academic community. The study of these transcripts indicates that the recent years witnessed the development of stable practices of interaction between the state and the historical establishment about the official narrative.

DOI: 10.30570/2078-5089-2019-94-3-103-126

Pages: 103-126

Foreign Polities

Andrey Medushevsky

Weimar America: A Political Discussion on the Causes of the Decline of One Great Democracy

Keywords: USA, Weimar Republic, democracy, parliamentarism, separation of powers, imperial presidency, Trump, populism

The dramatic change in the political climate in the United States after the victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential elections sparked a heated debate in the intellectual circles about the nature, historical foundations and the future of the American democracy. The discussion centers on the topic of a “suicide of democracy”, with the collapse of the Weimar Republic in Germany being its classic example, and the prospects for the Weimar scenario in the United States.

From the Political Science viewpoint, the content of this discussion is of interest in at least three respects. First, it captures the truly significant changes in the American political system, indicating qualitative, if not irreversible, shifts. Second, it poses a methodological problem of measuring the degree of deformation of the democratic institutions. Third, it allows one to look at the United States in a comparative perspective, drawing on the experience of other countries.

The article analyzes why the image of Weimar America is relevant for the political agenda of the United States, considers various interpretations of the meaning of the current changes, contours and basic parameters of the erosion of democracy and the system of separation of powers, polar assessments of the phenomenon of trumpism, as well as the ideas about the possibility of overcoming the political contradictions faced by one of the oldest democracies in the world. In the conclusion, the author examines the question of the Weimar paradigm of the collapse of democracies and demonstrates the extent to which the above discussed problems are specific to the United States, and to which extent they reflect global trends and can be integrated into the general theory of stability of democratic regimes.

DOI: 10.30570/2078-5089-2019-94-3-127-160

Pages: 127-160

Practical Sociology

Igor Zadorin, Anna Khomyakova

Religious Self-Identification of Respondents in Mass Surveys: What Is Behind Declared Religiosity?

Keywords: mass consciousness, value orientations, religious identity, religion, Orthodoxy, Russian Orthodox Church, solidarization

The article presents the results of the research study Measurement of the degree of value solidarity and the level of social trust in the Russian society conducted by the ZIRCON Research Group in late 2018 — early 2019. The main goal of the study was to identify value orientations of Russians, determine the unifying potential of diverse values and measure the level of social trust. A special section of the study was devoted to religious values, which made it possible to compare the religious identity of respondents with their value orientations, ideological attitudes and opinions on the current issues of the socio-political agenda.

The empirical data obtained in the course of the study indicate that the declared religiosity of Russians is often superficial (nominal), unstable, and is not supported either by appropriate religious practice or ethical views and value orientations. Its influence on the ideological and political choices of citizens is minimal, and religious institutions do not seem to possess a serious potential for mass political mobilization.

According to the authors, the public consciousness of Russians is highly fragmented. If earlier it was possible to spot large groups of people with a holistic, logically consistent, internally connected worldview that can be regarded as a common set of ideological views (for example, Russian — Orthodox — loyal to the Russian Orthodox Church — against abortions, etc.), nowadays such integrity is absent. Ideological chains no longer unite people into large communities. The society is divided into quite narrow and at the same time very different in terms of their internal parameters groups. Any combination of three or four dimensions (issues, value ideological constructs) of public discourse divides the Russian society into small fragments.

DOI: 10.30570/2078-5089-2019-94-3-161-184

Pages: 161-184


Eseniya Bondarik

Main International Media Freedom Indices: Systematization, Evaluation Criteria and Criticism

Keywords: freedom of speech, mass media, non-governmental organizations, international indices

The conventional wisdom holds that a free, independent and pluralistic media environment is a necessary condition for the development of democracy. However, what are criteria for media freedom and its measurement tools, and how reliable are the findings obtained with their help?

There are many methods for assessing the degree of media freedom — sociological surveys, expert interviews, analysis of legal acts, etc. However, the most popular method today is the indexing method, which implies studying the dynamics of processes using a set of generalized indicators. The most famous international media freedom indices are the following three: the Freedom House “Freedom of the Press” project, the Media Sustainability Index of the International Research and Exchanges Board and the Worldwide Press Freedom Index, compiled by the non-profit organization Reporters without Borders. These indices attract the attention not only of the professional and expert communities, but also the media that actively publish their results. Thus, the discussion of these results goes far beyond the academic community, and the indices themselves play an important role in public debates about the quality of democracy and freedom of expression.

This article is devoted to the analysis of the mentioned indices and the methodology for their composition. Its main task is to find out to what extent these indices reflect the formal and informal aspects of media freedom and to what extent, if any, the indicators used for compiling such indices allow to assess the level of this freedom and trace its evolution in different countries.

DOI: 10.30570/2078-5089-2019-94-3-185-200

Pages: 185-200