13 December 2014

Oligarchy no more?

Russia is not an oligarchy, according to New York Times op-ed contributor Masha Gessen. Also according to Masha Gessen, President Putin is the man responsible. What I don’t understand, though, is: this is a bad thing… how, exactly?

With regard to Gessen’s stated concerns about Russia’s poor, yes, inflation is a problem and will probably remain so for some time. This is to be expected in a market economy like Russia’s with a strong state presence as it weathers a changing political and economic climate, and there is of course room for a certain angle of critique there. However, current oil prices are being made artificially low primarily by political manipulation between the US and Saudi Arabia, in ways that certainly won’t be sustainable in the long-term; so in Russia there are not likely to be mass unemployment or starvation or out-of-control austerity measures from above the way there was under Eltsin and the oligarchs whose loss Mr. Gessen is here mourning. And not to be underestimated is the passion of Russia’s population for the political ‘outer self-determination’ (to use the terminology from economist Jaroslav Vanek’s text The Participatory Economy) of their country, even if it is at the cost in the short run of a certain degree of political ‘inner self-determination’. Given that the oligarchical class has historically been destructive both to ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ forms of Russia’s political self-determination, their present absence is not likely to be mourned even in the face of an economic rough patch.

From a purely political perspective, though, it is generally considered a good thing for the wealthy in a particular state to be subject to the requisite laws and authorities of that state’s government, rather than the other way around. That this development is now finally happening in Russia is in fact something to be grateful for, yes?


  1. Wow, amazing. Are we supposed to feel bad that Russia's rich can no longer stage effective coups against the government if they are unhappy with it? My heart bleeds for them.

  2. Hi John! Great to see you again!

    Yeah, I didn't really get it either. Masha Gessen's lamentation for the utterly shameless people who nearly destroyed Russia during the '90's pretty much beggared my belief, so to speak.