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Is it possible to modernize social policy in Russia today?

A. Chirikova, Doctor of Sociology, Senior Researcher, main researcher, ,
mailto: chirikova_a@mail.ru
Is it possible to modernize social policy in Russia today?.
Vestnik instituta sotziologii. 2010. Vol. 1. No. 1. P. 98-119

This Article is downloaded: 719 times
Topic: Topic of the Issue: Social policy of the Russian state

For citation:
A. Chirikova. Is it possible to modernize social policy in Russia today?. Vestnik instituta sotziologii. 2010. Vol. 1. No. 1. P. 98-119


This analysis focuses on whether or not the Russian elites are ready to transform the social sphere, and which social changes they believe to be the most essential in the short term. Dramatic social inequality has been an urgent issue for a while. Regional elites are hesitant and incapable of introducing reform. Their chief priority is to make their regions politically stable at all costs, which makes them unprepared for any radical steps in politics or the social sphere. Their hesitation is, in part, the product of the crisis. The stance of regional elites is largely influenced by their motivation, their habitual interactions with the federal Center, and the specific notions they have of the very possibility of social policy reform in Russia. A rigid subordination system where loyal staff is selected on the administrative level cannot produce political leaders capable of a modernization breakthrough, especially in the social sphere, where any attempts at improvement are oriented towards the wealthier part of the population, which is not yet inclined to share with the poor. The lack of political willpower is the main hurdle on the way of reform. The changes in social sphere cannot turn into a revolutionary overhaul. On the other hand, they must, at the very least, prevent the life of any population group from changing for the worse. Furthermore, any suggestions for reform must account for how much the elites are prepared to face change. Russian political elites, including those in regions outside Moscow, are, in their vast majority, characterized by short motivation spans and high degrees of pragmatism. The road to revolutionary change is rife with stumbling blocks, primarily the low level of trust among power actors on all hierarchy levels. Those in power acknowledge that they are only capable of localized reforms that do not require them to mobilize their efforts or to respond quickly. While not opposed to social changes, the regional elites are highly unlikely to follow the federal orders to the letter, setting aside their own interests and potentially risking their position. The changes in distribution impact the interests of the regional elite structures rather than the general populace, which makes it necessary for the elites to reach a consensus before any reform.


regional social policy, modernization potential of the elites, adaptive behavior,  relations of the Center and the regions, readiness of the regional elites for innovation in the social sphere.


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