Skip to main content

Beyond Loyalty and Dissent: Pragmatic Everyday Politics in Contemporary Russia

Abstract

In this paper, drawing on empirical evidence from Russian society, the authors seek to analyze the ways in which ordinary people can overcome a perceived gap between “high” politics and their everyday experiences. We argue that the concept of everyday politics is not enough to prepare the ground for politicization in everyday life, at least in a highly dismantled society. In examining ethnographic case studies of people who consider themselves apolitical, the paper introduces the concept of “pragmatic politics,” which is defined as the activity of inscribing the broader world within palpable everyday experience. The case studies examined here speak to four different modes of everyday politics that reveal various modalities of pragmatic politics.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. The idea is close to Laurent Thévenot’s concept of the familiar regime of engagement (Thévenot 2014) but differs in that familiarity with one’s close environment is conceptualized as problematic.

  2. Research project “The Formation of Political Dispositions in Contemporary Russia”. 2014–2015, St. Petersburg State University, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

  3. “MYPLACE: Memory, Youth, Political Legacy and Civic Engagement” SSH-2010-5.1-1 FP7 research project.

  4. Ongoing research on “Patriotism in contemporary Russia” under the project “Living together. Issues of diversity and unity in the modern Russia: historical legacy, modern state and society” (2016–2017). Research supported by a grant from the Foundation for Support of Liberal Education at the Center for Historical Research at the National Research University Higher School of Economics St. Petersburg and Gagarin Center for Civil Society and Human Rights.

References

  • Aidukaite, J., & Fröhlich, C. (2015). Struggle over public space: grassroots movements in Moscow and Vilnius. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 35(7/8), 565–580.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Alexander, J. C., Eyerman, R., Gieson, B., Smelser, N. J., & Sztompka, P. (2004). Cultural trauma and collective identity. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Auyero, J. (2004). When everyday life, routine politics, and protest meet. Theory and Society, 33(3–4), 417–441.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bayat, A. (1997). Un-civil society: The politics of the ‘informal people. Third World Quarterly, 18(1), 53–72.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Berger, M., Cefaï, D., & Gayet-Viaud, C. (2011). Du civil au politique. Ethnographies du vivre-ensemble. Bruxelles: Peter Lang, coll. «Action publique».

    Google Scholar 

  • Bidet, A., Boutet, M., Chave, F., Gayet-Viaud, C., & Le Méner, E. (2015). Publicité, sollicitation, intervention. Pistes pour une étude pragmatiste de l’expérience citoyenne. SociologieS, Dossier Pragmatisme et sciences sociales : explorations, enquêtes, expérimentations. http://sociologies.revues.org/4941.

  • Biziukov, P. (2014). The dynamics of labor protests in Russia, 2008 to 2011. Sociological Research, 51(5), 45–63.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Boltanski, L., & Chiapello, E. (1999). Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme. Paris: Gallimard.

    Google Scholar 

  • Boltanski, L., & Thévenot, L. (2006). On justification: economies of worth. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Boudreau, J., Boucher, N., & Liguori, M. (2009). Taking the bus daily and demonstrating on Sunday: reflections on the formation of political subjectivity in an urban world. City, 13(2–3), 336–346.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bourdieu, P. (1990). Structures, habitus, practices. The logic of practice (pp. 52–65). Cambridge: Polity.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bourdieu, P., & Thompson, J. B. (1991). Language and symbolic power. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Breman, J., & van der Linden, M. (2014). Informalizing the economy: the return of the social question at a global level. Development and Change, 45, 920–940.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brunarska, Z. (2017). Understanding sociopolitical engagement of society in Russia: a view from Yaroslavl Oblast and Tatarstan. Problems of Post-Communism (pp. 1–12).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cefaï, D., Carrel, M., Talpin, J., Eliasoph, N., & Lichterman, P. (2012). Ethnographies de la participation. Participations, 4, 7–48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clément, K. (Ed.). (2013). Gorodskie dviženiâ Rossii v 2009–2012 godah: Na puti k političeskomu [Urban movements in Russia, 2009–2012: on the road towards politics]. Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie.

    Google Scholar 

  • Clément, K. (2015a). Unlikely mobilisations: how ordinary Russian people become involved in collective action. European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology, 2(3–4), 211–240.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clément, K. (2015b). From ‘local’ to ‘political:’ the Kaliningrad mass protest movement of 2009–2010 in Russia. In K. Jacobsson (Ed.), Urban movements and grassroots activism in Central and Eastern Europe (pp. 163–194). Farnham: Ashgate.

    Google Scholar 

  • Collins, R. (2001). Social movements and the focus of emotional attention. In J. Goodwin, J. M. Jasper, & F. Polletta (Eds.), Passionate politics: emotions and social movements (pp. 27–44). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Daucé, F. (2014). The government and human rights groups in Russia: civilized oppression? Journal of Civil Society, 10(3), 239–254.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dewey, J. (2005). Art as experience (1st ed.). New York: penguin 1934.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eliasoph, N. (1996). Making a fragile public: a talk-centered study of citizenship and power. Sociological Theory, 14(3), 262–289.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Eliasoph, N. (1998). Avoiding politics: How Americans produce apathy in everyday life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Erpyleva, S., & Magun, A. (Eds.). (2014). Politika apolitičnyh. Graždanskie dviženiâ v Rossii 2011–2013 godov [The politics of the ‘apolitical:’ citizens movements in Russia, 2012–2013]. M: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie.

  • Evans, A. (2015). Civil society and protests in Russia. In C. Ross (Ed.), Systemic and non-systemic opposition in the Russian Federation: civil society awakens? (pp. 15–34). Farnham: Ashgate.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fernández, P. D., Martí, I., & Farchi, T. (2016). Mundane and everyday politics for and from the neighborhood. Organization Studies (pp. 1–23).

  • Gabowitsch, M. (2016a). Are copycats subversive? Strategy-31, the Russian runs, the immortal regiment, and the transformative potential of non-hierarchical movements. Problems of Post-Communism (pp. 1–18).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gabowitsch, M. (2016b). Protest in Putin’s Russia. Cambridge: Polity Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gladarev, B., & Lonkila, M. (2013). Justifying civic activism in Russia and Finland. Journal of Civil Society, 9(4), 375–390.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goffman, E. (1974). Frame analysis: an essay on the organization of experience. Harvard: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Greene, S. (2014). Moscow in movement: power and opposition in Putin’s Russia. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gudkov, L. (2013). Russian cynicism: symptom of a stagnant society. Open Democracy, 22 Oct. Retrieved May 15, 2019, from https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/lev-gudkov/russian-cynicism-symptom-of-stagnant-society.

  • Gudkov, L., Dubin, B., & Zorkaâ, N. (2008). Postsovetskij čelovek i graždanskoe obŝestvo [Post-Soviet man and civil society]. Moscow: Moskovskaâ Skola Političeskih Issledovanij.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hamidi, C. (2006). Éléments pour une approche interactionniste de la politisation (Vol. 56(1), pp. 5–25). Paris: Presses de Sciences Po (PFNSP).

    Google Scholar 

  • Hemment, J. (2015). Soviet-style neoliberalism? Nashi, youth voluntarism, and the restructuring of social welfare in Russia. Problems of Post-Communism, 56, 36–50.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Howard, M. (2003). The weakness of civil society in post-communist Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Kerkvliet, B. J. (2005). The power of everyday politics: how Vietnamese peasants transformed national policy. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Kerkvliet, B. J. (2009). Everyday politics in peasant societies (and ours). Journal of Peasant Studies, 36(1), 227–243.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Koveneva, O. (2011). Les communautés politiques en France et en Russie. Annales: Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 66(3), 787–817.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Krivonos, D. (2015). State-managed youth participation in Russia: the national, collective and personal in Nashi activists’ narratives. Anthropology of East Europe Review, 33(1), 44–58.

    Google Scholar 

  • Laclau, E. (2005). On populist reason. Verso: London, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lefebvre, H. (1996). The right to the city. Writings on Cities (pp. 63–181).

  • Lichterman, P. (1996). The search for political community: American activists reinventing commitment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Luhtakallio, E. (2012). Practicing democracy: local activism and politics in France and Finland. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Luhtakallio, E., & Eliasoph, N. (2014). (publication on-line). Ethnography of politics and political communication: studies in sociology and political science. In K. H. Jamieson & K. Kenski (Eds.), Oxford handbook on political communication. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Morris, J. (2016). Everyday post-socialism: working-class communities in the Russian margins. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Mouffe, C. (2005). On the political. Psychology Press.

  • Neveu, C. (2015). Of ordinariness and citizenship processes. Citizenship Studies, 19(2), 141–154.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Norgaard, K. M. (2011). Living in denial: climate change, emotions, and everyday life. Cambridge: MIT Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Omelchenko, E., & Zhelnina, A. (2014). Risks and pleasures in the youth activist scenes in contemporary Russia. In F. Martinez & P. Runnel (Eds.), Hopeless youth (pp. 119–140). Tartu: Estonian National Museum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Oushakine, S. (2000). In the state of post-Soviet aphasia: symbolic development in contemporary Russia. Europe-Asia Studies, 52(6), 991–1016.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pilkington, H., & Pollock, G. (2015). ‘Politics are bollocks’: youth, politics and activism in contemporary Europe. The Sociological Review, 63, 1–35.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pudal, R (Transl. C. Morel). (2011). Politics in the fire station. Revue Française de Science Politique, 61(5), 917–944. Retrieved 15 May, 2019, from http://www.cairn-int.info/article-E_RFSP_615_0917%2D%2Dpolitics-in-the-fire-station.htm.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Putnam, R. D. (1995). Bowling alone: America’s declining social capital. Journal of Democracy, 6(1), 65–78.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Quirós, J. (2008). Politics and economics in collective action: an ethnographic critique of dichotomic premisses. Mana, 4(SE), translation from Mana, Rio de Janeiro (pp. 127–153). Retrieved 15 May, 2019, from http://socialsciences.scielo.org/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0104-93132008000100005.

  • Ross, C. (2015). Systemic and non-systemic opposition in the Russian Federation: civil society awakens? Farnham: Ashgate.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scott, J. C. (1990). Domination and the arts of resistance: hidden transcripts. New Haven: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scott, J. C. (1998). Seeing like a state: how certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed. New Haven: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sennet, R. (1998). The corrosion of character. The personal consequences of work in the new capitalism. New York: WW Norton.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shlapentokh, V. (2007). Contemporary Russia as a feudal society: a new perspective on the post-Soviet era. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Standing, G. (2011). The precariat: the new dangerous class. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stompka, P. (2000). Cultural trauma: the other face of social change. European Journal of Social Theory, 3(4), 449–466.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thévenot, L. (2001). Pragmatic regimes governing the engagement with the world. In K. Knorr-Cetina, T. Schatzk, & E. Savigny Eike (Eds.), The practice turn in contemporary theory (pp. 56–73). London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thévenot, L. (2014). Voicing concern and difference. From public spaces to common-places. European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology, 1(1), 7–34.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tilly, C., & Tarrow, S. (2007). Contentious politics. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tykanova, E. (2012). Contested urban spaces: Russia and Europe in comparative perspective. Working Paper WP 2012-09. Centre for German and European Studies. Retrieved from http://www.zdes.spbu.ru/assets/files/wp/2012/WP_2012_9 Tykanova.pdf.

  • Wacquant, L. (2006). Body & soul: notebooks of an apprentice boxer. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zhelnina, A. (2013). Svoboda Ot Politiki: ‘obychnaya’ molodezh Na Fone Politicheskikh Protestov 2011-2012 (Free from politics: ‘ordinary’ youth during the political protests of 2011-2012). Sotsiologiya Vlasti (Sociology of Power), 4, 139–149.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zhuravlev O., Savelyeva N., & Erpyleva S. (2014). Apoliticism and solidarity: local activism in Russia. LeftEast. Retreived 15 May, 2019, from http://www.criticatac.ro/lefteast/apoliticism-and-solidarity-local-activism-in-russia/.

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Karine Clément.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Clément, K., Zhelnina, A. Beyond Loyalty and Dissent: Pragmatic Everyday Politics in Contemporary Russia. Int J Polit Cult Soc 33, 143–162 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10767-019-9319-0

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10767-019-9319-0

Keywords

  • Everyday politics
  • Pragmatic politics
  • Ethnography of politics