“Discursive ideology” of contemporary authoritarian regimes: the politics of ideas and discourses on nonprofit policy participation in Russia”

  • Date: –17:00
  • Location: IRES Library, Gamla torget 3, 3rd floor
  • Organiser: Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies (IRES)
  • Contact person: Mattias Vesterlund
  • Föreläsning

Modern authoritarian regimes – of which Putin’s Russia is a prime example - have been perceived as non-ideological and largely based on materialistic incentives for the elites and the public. Recently, however, scholars increasingly recognise the opposite trend in which autocracies appeal to their citizens’ emotions, via control and manipulation of the media, providing narratives that – while with varying degree support application of economic liberalism (Laruelle 2022: 314; Orenstein and Bugaric 2022) – advance nationalism, traditionalism and conservative values, seeking to organise citizens in state-sponsored movements, and involving them in participatory governance that channels neoliberal public administration trends to authoritarian advantage. This research underlines the importance of non-material – ideational – elements of contemporary authoritarian rule.

Taking an inspiration from discursive institutionalism (Schmidt 2008), this study adopts the insights of comparative research on ideas and discourses and combining them with authoritarian scholarship adapts them to the analysis of authoritarian ideology. This paper develops an argument that a contemporary authoritarian ideology needs to be seen as a vibrant ideational arena. Such an ideology apart from carrying a doctrinal content comprised of a blurry mix of nationalism, conservatism and traditional values noted by existing research (Enyedi 2020; Guo 2021; Laruelle 2021, 2022, 2023; Magyar and Madlovics 2020), includes a dynamic interactive process involving ideas and agency of many actors in an authoritarian system.

The analysis relies on evidence from social policy in Russia from 2000 to 2023 and focusses on its important aspect: the participation of social-sector non-profit organisations (NPOs) in policy development and implementation, which is used as an illustrative case for ideational politics in authoritarian regimes.

Marina Khmelnitskaya is a visiting research fellow at the Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki. She was previously a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre of Excellence “Choices of Russian Modernisation” hosted by the Aleksanteri Institute. She also held visiting fellowships at King’s College Russia Institute and at the University of the West of England. She received her doctorate from the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford and was a junior research fellow at the Russian and Eurasian Studies Centre at St Antony’s College and a senior member of the Common Room of St Antony’s College. 

Dr Khmelnitskaya’s research is about the policymaking process in authoritarian regimes, specifically focusing on Russia and in comparison with other countries, including China and Turkey.