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Can Russia Modernise?: Sistema, Power Networks and Informal Governance

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In this original, bottom-up account of the evolution of contemporary Russia, Alena Ledeneva seeks to reveal how informal power operates. Concentrating on Vladimir Putin's system of governance - referred to as sistema - she identifies four key types of networks: his inner circle, useful friends, core contacts and more diffuse ties and connections. These networks serve siste In this original, bottom-up account of the evolution of contemporary Russia, Alena Ledeneva seeks to reveal how informal power operates. Concentrating on Vladimir Putin's system of governance - referred to as sistema - she identifies four key types of networks: his inner circle, useful friends, core contacts and more diffuse ties and connections. These networks serve sistema but also serve themselves. Reliance on networks enables leaders to mobilise and to control, yet they also lock politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen into informal deals, mediated interests and personalised loyalty. This is the 'modernisation trap of informality': one cannot use the potential of informal networks without triggering their negative long-term consequences for institutional development. Ledeneva's perspective on informal power is based on in-depth interviews with sistema insiders and enhanced by evidence of its workings brought to light in court cases, enabling her to draw broad conclusions about the prospects for Russia's political institutions.


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In this original, bottom-up account of the evolution of contemporary Russia, Alena Ledeneva seeks to reveal how informal power operates. Concentrating on Vladimir Putin's system of governance - referred to as sistema - she identifies four key types of networks: his inner circle, useful friends, core contacts and more diffuse ties and connections. These networks serve siste In this original, bottom-up account of the evolution of contemporary Russia, Alena Ledeneva seeks to reveal how informal power operates. Concentrating on Vladimir Putin's system of governance - referred to as sistema - she identifies four key types of networks: his inner circle, useful friends, core contacts and more diffuse ties and connections. These networks serve sistema but also serve themselves. Reliance on networks enables leaders to mobilise and to control, yet they also lock politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen into informal deals, mediated interests and personalised loyalty. This is the 'modernisation trap of informality': one cannot use the potential of informal networks without triggering their negative long-term consequences for institutional development. Ledeneva's perspective on informal power is based on in-depth interviews with sistema insiders and enhanced by evidence of its workings brought to light in court cases, enabling her to draw broad conclusions about the prospects for Russia's political institutions.

50 review for Can Russia Modernise?: Sistema, Power Networks and Informal Governance

  1. 5 out of 5

    Petras

    This is a must-read book for those who want to understand how 'sistema' in Russia works and how it is governed. Highly recommended. This is a must-read book for those who want to understand how 'sistema' in Russia works and how it is governed. Highly recommended.

  2. 4 out of 5

    April

    This book did a great job of taking a complex subject and working it into a narrative that made it easy to understand and interesting. It’s difficult for me to ascribe any criticism to her work because she thoroughly covered her topic through a widely-accepted practice of academic research. Some chapters cite upwards of 80 sources and any questions that arise in the readers minds are answered promptly, smoothly transitioning from one difficult, complex topic to another. Whenever a hole in the re This book did a great job of taking a complex subject and working it into a narrative that made it easy to understand and interesting. It’s difficult for me to ascribe any criticism to her work because she thoroughly covered her topic through a widely-accepted practice of academic research. Some chapters cite upwards of 80 sources and any questions that arise in the readers minds are answered promptly, smoothly transitioning from one difficult, complex topic to another. Whenever a hole in the research seems to arise, Ledevena describes her process and why the information could not be gathered. Given the secretive, high-profile nature of her topic, I found these gaps predictable, but much fewer and farther between than I expected. I take that as a sign of her diligent research and years patiently dedicated to understanding the governmental processes of Russia. For example, she not only gathers evidence of the ideas she’s supporting, she’s careful to make those instances representative. In her chapter about the informal systems governing judicial practices, she mentions that her first few examples are high profile, unusual cases, so she moves on to dive into some second tier cases as well.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Melvin

  4. 5 out of 5

    Arseny

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

  6. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Lamb

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mary

  8. 5 out of 5

    Einar Eide

  9. 5 out of 5

    Oleksandr Hlushchenko

  10. 4 out of 5

    Anton

  11. 4 out of 5

    Greta Danisova

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kārlis

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sasha

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tato Kvamladze

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jakub Šindelář

  16. 4 out of 5

    auburn

  17. 4 out of 5

    Robert McAuliffe

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mark Schrad

  19. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  20. 4 out of 5

    Johan Maurer

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ian

  23. 5 out of 5

    Eric Garand

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alexander

  25. 4 out of 5

    Andreas

  26. 5 out of 5

    Andreas Sjöberg

  27. 4 out of 5

    Victoria Klimova

  28. 5 out of 5

    Gary Gudmundson

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dominik

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Wadhwani

  31. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

  32. 4 out of 5

    Matsini1

  33. 5 out of 5

    Mike

  34. 5 out of 5

    Mihai

  35. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

  36. 4 out of 5

    Timur

  37. 4 out of 5

    Kris

  38. 5 out of 5

    Lunia Chekhovskaya

  39. 4 out of 5

    Ceren

  40. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Chrisman

  41. 4 out of 5

    Alina

  42. 5 out of 5

    Artur

  43. 4 out of 5

    Slava

  44. 4 out of 5

    Dainius Jocas

  45. 4 out of 5

    Gintautas Vaitekonis

  46. 5 out of 5

    Smaran Kapoor

  47. 4 out of 5

    Felix

  48. 5 out of 5

    Sophia

  49. 4 out of 5

    Konstantin Cherco

  50. 5 out of 5

    Pavel

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