Political capital in Russia

Malakhova Alexandra, a second-year master student,
School of Public Administration, Lomonosov Moscow State University

Abstract: This article analyzes the political capital in Russia. The phenomenon is considered from the point of view of different theoretical approaches, on the basis of which a number of parameters are allocated for evaluation. Based on analysis of the official statistics the author comes to the conclusion that political capital in Russia is weak in all three dimensions: the individual, the society and the power. The use of this methodology in the future can be used to assess the dynamics of political capital in Russian Federation.

Key words: political capital, credit of trust, social capital, protest activity, civil society.

In modern states, politics is perceived as a market where politicians (power holders) are sellers who offer their programs, and voters are passive consumers who "invest" their voice during elections. Ordinary, citizens are deprived of free time and cultural capital (origin, education, upbringing, etc.) to participate in politics, so they delegate their right to power to party leaders during voting, giving them an unlimited "credit" of trust and recognition - political capital . Possessing political capital, the politician is capable of mobilizing collective actions, interpreting and constructing the interests of groups. However, ascendance, following M. Weber's theory, is a two-way road - politicians expect subordination and support, and society expects conformity of state actions to their preferences - this is democracy.

Political capital is the most important parameter for measuring democracy, so it is interesting to analyze it in Russia, which is still in the process of transition to democracy.

Political capital can be assessed in three dimensions: the individual (citizen), civil society, power (politician / institute / regime). In this article we will analyze them using the estimates of Russians (according to polls) and ratings.

What is the role of the rank-and-file individual in the concept of political capital? D. Shugurensky  believes that the ability of an average citizen to influence the decision-making process and public policy at the local level is also political capital. He divides the citizen's political capital into several parameters. First of all, knowledge (about rights, laws, etc.) - only 14% of Russians read the Constitution of the Russian Federation, and 68% have only general understanding of it, only 35% of respondents consider an important role for the document. For comparison, in the USA the Constitution is considered the most important document by 86% of citizens, and 42% read the text. This once again confirms the fact that Russian citizens are to a large extent characterized by "legal nihilism," even in relation to the country's basic law. It is worth noting that 66% of Russians show interest in politics, while only 18% are ready to take part in it.

Secondly, attitudes (about the legitimate right to influence the government, about the obligatory responsibility of the government) are very important. Russians are pessimistic about their ability to influence the decision-making process in the country, only 12% speak positively. The level of responsibility / accountability of the authorities to citizens in Russia remains low.

The size of the political capital of a citizen is also affected by the size of the distance in relation to the authorities. Here it is worth noting that in Russia historically there was a long distance "power-citizens", which is still preserved. A large part of the population (66%) prefers to solve all the issues independently, without resorting to the help of the authorities, since this can be "costly". Only 7% of citizens estimate the relations with state bodies as productive. We can also estimate the power distance using the power distance index, which shows the influence of the country's socio-cultural characteristics on the "citizens-power relations". Russia is among the countries with a high index (93), which means a long distance, a rigid hierarchy and an authoritarian style of government. High distance as well leads to the appearance of corruption, as a way to overcome bureaucratic obstacles faster and more efficiently.

Thus, analyzing the assessments of Russians themselves, we can conclude that the political capital of Russian citizens is at a low level. The main reasons are: "legal nihilism," unwillingness to take part in politics, low assessments of the ability to influence on the decision-making process in the country and the right to demand a report from the authorities, as well as a long distance "citizens-power."

The political capital of a society can be estimated by measuring its social capital - participation of citizens in the activities of organizations, public relations, trust and satisfaction with life. The higher the level of citizens' participation in the activities of organizations and the stronger the social ties, the more the political capital of society.

Now then, only 11% of Russians are ready to assume responsibility for what is happening in the country, the indicators at the local level are higher - 40% feel responsible for the situation in their yard. This is one of the reasons that civil society in the country is weak and fragmented.

In the case of trust, according to different estimates, only 20-30% of the population are ready to trust to people around, and this is mostly Muscovites, as well as more wealthy and educated citizens. A higher level of mistrust is recorded among people with low income and groups older than 80 years.

Only 5% of Russians have experience of direct work in non-commercial organizations and social movements, including those who have "experience of participation in politics". The most numerous and popular political movement of the last years - "For Fair Elections" 2011-2012, is now almost gone.

One of the most important part of social capital is so-called "third sector"or non-profit organizations. In developed countries, the share of citizens participating in volunteer activity is about 30%, in Russia, about 77% of citizens are ready to unite with others for joint actions following the common interests, however, only 28% actually participate in the activities of at least one NGO.

Civil society and government are linked through the channels of citizen participation – political parties.

About a half of the Russian citizens favor a single state ideology (48%), while the "left" views (51%) dominate and the regime of the "hard hand" is supported. It is interesting that, despite the adherence to predominantly socialist views, voting at the elections shows low support for the "leftist parties" - 13.3% of the Communist Party and 6.2% of Just Russia. At the same time, the ruling party, advocating liberal conservatism (center-right), received 54.2% (28.5 million) of votes in the last federal elections to the State Duma in 2016 with a turnout of 47.8% (the lowest in the history of the country). Obviously, the existing parties do not reflect the political preferences of Russians, so citizens continue to tacitly agree to maintain the administrative role of the United Russia party (the support rating for April 2018 is 49.5%, although in March it was 52.2%).

The protest activity of Russian citizens is low - only 14% of citizens are ready to step out in defense of their rights, while 82% do not see any sense in this. The President of the Center for Strategic Communications D. Abzalov believes that, today people can use other forms of expression of discontent - "a straight line with the president, a" green folder "and direct control of the heads of regions".

The third dimension of political capital is power (politics / institutions / regime in general). Here the main parameters are trust / distrust and approval / disapproval of citizens in relation to the authorities. According to Russians, the main priority of the current regime is the preservation and strengthening of its rule, and not the prosperity of the country. The image of power among Russians is associated with crime, corruption (31%); bureaucracy (26%); legality (23%); remoteness from the people (23%), strength (19%), authority (11%).

Regarding the political capital of the government, it's interesting to analyze two indicators: trust (in relation to politicians) and approval (in relation to the institutions). So, the most popular politician in the country is president V.V. Putin, who is trusted by 49.3% of the citizens (55.3% before the election) [13], while the institute of the President approves about 82.2% (the peak was reached in June 2015 - 89%). Here you can see that due to the weakening of the "Crimean effect" and the deterioration of the economic conditions in the country, the president's rating falls. In second place after Putin is the Minister of defense S.K. Shoigu, who is trusted by 19.1%, respectively, we can assume that the most popular in the government is the defense department (the Russian army is also trusted by 69%, second after the President). Policy of the Government is approved by 50.9% of citizens, while the head of the Government D.A. Medvedev causes disapproval of citizens - 33.1%. This is due to inefficient economic and social policies.

Thus, in Russia, political capital is weak in all three dimensions. At the individual level, we see the reluctance of citizens themselves to participate in the governance of the country and the lack of channels of communication with the authorities. At the level of society, we see a weak civil non-profit sector due to its scarcity and fragmentation, inability to articulate and express the interests and demands of citizens. At the level of power, the political regime is contradictory: there is a high support for the activities of the president of the country, based on his strong personality and charisma, while, in general, citizens do not support the regime and believe that it does not meet their interests.


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