Как преодолеть застой антикоррупционных исследований в России? | Вестн. Том. гос. ун-та. Философия. Социология. Политология. 2020. № 58. DOI: 10.17223/1998863X/58/18

Как преодолеть застой антикоррупционных исследований в России?

Рассматривается состояние научной литературы по теме противодействия коррупции в России; исследуются аспекты, которые до сих пор остаются без должного внимания, и предлагаются новые направления исследований. Показана необходимость расширения исследовательской направленности и изучения процессов, происходящих в гражданском обществе.

The stagnation of anti-corruption studies on Russia: what should be done to reverse the situation?.pdf The stagnation of anti-corruption studies on Russia: what should be done to reverse the situation? 199 aspects of anti-corruption [3, 4] and to the role of civil society [5, 6]. The difference between the academic production proposed by local scholars and scholars affiliated to international institutions emerged more clearly in the 2010s. In fact, during these years, local social science researchers failed in contributing significantly to the expansion of knowledge in this field, continuing to focus on the theoretical role played by civil society, remarking on the importance to establish a dialogue with the state, and to reinforce the collaboration between these two spheres, without offering substantial infield investigations [7, 8]. As a consequence, with the exception of the works proposed by Schmit-Pfister and Zaloznaya et al. [9, 10], the role of civil society has remained mainly unexplored. What should be done to reverse the situation? Broadening the field According to the discourse proposed by international institutions, the reduction of corruption is sine qua non for the development of democracy that, on the other hand, represents a prerequisite for the effective implementation of anticorruption reforms. International institutions provide a moral justification for the urgency to promote democratic and anti-corruption principles through standardized policies and programs based on western models that emphasize the central role of civil society [11]. This universalistic approach has been criticized by scholars who remark on the importance to consider and investigate the local context, and to overcome an idealized understanding of civil society [12]. However, normative studies remain predominant for what concerns anti-corruption in Russia. The nexus between democracy and anti-corruption, present in the international discourse [13], is here overlooked in studies that focus only on anti-corruption. I argue that this approach limits the understanding of what anti-corruption is in Russia, as it neglects the hypothesis that this field can be influenced by how democracy is perceived and by the different meanings that can be associated with this idea. According to Levada polls published in 2015 [14], the majority of Russians (62%) thinks that the country needs democracy, 55% of the respondents declare that it requires a model of democracy that reflects the ‘national traditions and specificity’ of Russia. These results demonstrate how only 13% would opt for a western model of democracy, a percentage of people even lower than those who would prefer to re-establish a Soviet democracy (16%). These data reflect the historical development of the country and the political discourse created by the government during the last two decades. According to Drozdova and Robinson [15], who analyzed Putin’s speeches over the years, the president has always expressed a positive attitude towards democracy, although emphasizing more the importance of other aspects such as patriotism, the creation of a strong state, and the collaboration between government and civil society, in order to maintain stability and to support the development of the country. In his words, democracy is important but it does not have to correspond to the western model, suggesting that the country should follow a path that better conforms to its specificities. It is interesting how the same approach can be noticed also in the official discourse on anti-corruption, which suggests that the country should develop its own instruments to counteract the problem, avoiding external impositions [16]. International institutions propose a depoliticized and universal approach to anticorruption [17], but how is it understood and re-elaborated in a context such as the Russian one, where the idea of democracy seems to differ from the one expressed F. Chiarvesio 200 by western models? The literature produced so far has not explored the meanings that anti-corruption and democracy have acquired in the specific context of Russia. It has also addressed the question of anti-corruption separately from the question of democracy. How can we understand how anti-corruption in Russia has transformed if we do not know what this idea means for those who are directly engaged in the process? How has the idea of democracy affected the way anti-corruption is viewed? Exploring the field Despite the great importance placed on the role played by civil society in local studies, as mentioned above, very few works have tried to reveal what this role actually consists of. As explained previously, local publications remark on the importance of the collaboration between government and civil society, often urging the state to reinforce dialogue with the latter, but the studies provide only a superficial analysis of the sector. The situation does not improve significantly if we consider the limited number of works that proposed infield investigations, mainly published by scholars affiliated to foreign universities. Zaloznaya et al. [10] focused on relations with the government, describing them as a collaboration established with the only purpose of reinforcing the positive image of the state, but actually limiting the impact of civil society. As a consequence, the nature of this sector remains unexplored. Chandoke argues that civil society has now become a ‘consensual concept’ [18. P. 1], based on a normative and idealized academic approach, urging scholars to explore what this concept actually means. The relations between state and civil society in Russia have been extensively analyzed by international scholars over the last decade; they investigated the consequences of the approval of the laws on ‘foreign agents’ (2012) [19] and on ‘undesired organizations’ (2015) [20]. The role of organizations and initiatives engaged in anti-corruption, however, has not been investigated at the micro level, neglecting the work carried out every day by workers, and at the meso level, overlooking how the politicization of the sector might have affected the different actors. Until the early 2010s, in Russia there were only a handful of organizations and research centers engaged directly in anti-corruption [21]. For most organizations anticorruption represented only a side-task, and it was only between the late 2000s and the early 2010s that the structure of the sector significantly transformed, when the fight against corruption became one of the main objectives of president Dmitry Medvedev, but also one of the main instruments in the hands of the political opposition. During the last decade anti-corruption civil society initiatives and organizations supported by the opposition were created; nevertheless, this particular aspect has not been investigated by scholars. The politicization of civil society deserves a more in-depth analysis, as it clashes with the model promoted by international institutions, raises questions concerning the nature of civil society and the effects of blurring boundaries between the political and civil sphere. Dismissing the politicization of the field by the opposition, scholars risk providing a distorted and limited understanding of the situation in the country. How do we conciliate the agency given to civil society by the international depoliticized anticorruption discourse with the political goals of some organizations in Russia? Why does the impact of the state agenda deserve particular attention, but the possible instrumentalization of civil society by the opposition for political purposes can be The stagnation of anti-corruption studies on Russia: what should be done to reverse the situation? 201 overlooked? The discourses on anti-corruption created by both the government and the opposition have been analyzed by Popova, who argues that both approaches risk to lead to a ‘systematic reproduction of corruption practices’ [22. P. 206]. We know little, however, about the impact that these discourses have had on civil society organizations and initiatives. Furthermore, as mentioned above, scholars have extensively investigated the impact of the NGO laws focusing on the strategies developed by workers to avoid any collision with authorities, and Tysiachniouk at al. [23] explained how local environmental organizations use informal practices to simulate compliance with the laws, such as concealing foreign funding sources, making informal agreements with officials, or changing the juridical status of the organizations to escape restrictions. The literature on anticorruption has not yet investigated how organizations have adjusted to the new laws, and it remains unexplored how they move between the possible necessity to use informal practices to carry out their work and the principles they represent. The risk for civil society to become ‘anti-democractic and self-serving’ [24. P. 217] deserves more attention in a complex context such as the Russian one. The studies proposed so far have not focused on the practices and strategies used in everyday work, and only in-depth infield research could disclose the reality behind projects and official statements. Another aspect that deserves more attention is the actual role played by institutionalized non-governmental organizations in today’s Russia. The studies produced after the fall of the Soviet Union highlighted the lack of trust among citizens toward civil society organizations, and during recent years scholars have observed the increasing importance of informal associations of citizens that seem to develop in parallel to existing organizations [25]. How do more institutionalized organizations adjust to the transformations occurring within society? Do they have an impact on the process of democratization, whatever this means in the specific local context, or do they struggle to be identified by citizens as their representatives and as legitimized anti-corruption warriors? Repositioning the field The necessity to broaden the focuses and to explore anti-corruption from different perspectives also involves repositioning the field as a whole. The studies produced so far are affected, on the one hand, by the tendency of international scholars to consider the post-Soviet regions as a separate space that can be compared only to countries that share a similar historical, political and social background and, on the other hand, by the research approaches used by local scholars that exclude them from the international debate. The predominance of legal studies or broad analyses, often atheoretical, impedes the production of works that can contribute significantly to the understanding of what anti-corruption in Russia is and that can attract the interest of the international academic community. It is true that the field of anti-corruption emerged globally only in the 1990s, and that until 2008 Russia did not have an anti-corruption law. Furthermore, the academic system of the country had to adjust to the economic and political changes occurring at the national level and, simultaneously, to the transformations affecting the sector at the global one. It is time for scholars to try to overcome the label of post-Soviet studies, and to propose experiences and types of knowledge rooted in the specific local context, as emphasized by Mtiller [26]. The international debate F. Chiarvesio 202 on anti-corruption urges scholars to explore new paths and to go beyond predetermined schemas. In order to overcome a normative approach, developed on the basis of a western understanding of anti-corruption and democracy, scholars should try to link the experience of Russia with the experience of other countries outside the post-Soviet region, with the goal of ‘unsettling and reconstituting standard processes of knowledge production’, as suggested by Bhambra [27. P. 115] when discussing the potential of post-colonial and de-colonial thinking. Conclusion This paper explores some of the aspects and questions that have so far been neglected by scholars studying anti-corruption in Russia. It also stresses the important role that the contribution of local scholars could play in expanding and developing this field of studies. I argue that the evolution of the sector deserves more attention from social scientists, who should undertake more infield investigations. The current situation of stagnation, especially at the local level, can be overturned by broadening the focuses of the investigation, by venturing into the field to explore everyday practices and reveal meanings, and by looking beyond the boundaries of the post-Soviet region to take inspiration from post-colonial experiences. The significant development of the anti-corruption sector in Russia in the last decade, its partial politicization, the need to link the question of anticorruption with the one of democracy, its potential role in the transformations that civil society is undergoing are aspects that have remained almost unexplored, but that deserve more attention and courage from scholars, both local and international.

Ключевые слова

противодействие коррупции, Россия, социальные науки, гражданское общество, общественные организации


Кьярвезио ФранческаНациональный исследовательский университет «Высшая школа экономики»Международная лаборатория исследований социальной интеграцииfchiarvesio@hse.ru
Всего: 1


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 Как преодолеть застой антикоррупционных исследований в России? | Вестн. Том. гос. ун-та. Философия. Социология. Политология. 2020. № 58. DOI: 10.17223/1998863X/58/18

Как преодолеть застой антикоррупционных исследований в России? | Вестн. Том. гос. ун-та. Философия. Социология. Политология. 2020. № 58. DOI: 10.17223/1998863X/58/18