Improbable but Potentially Pivotal Oppositions: Privatization, Capitalists, and Political Contestation in the Post-Soviet Autocracies

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Pitzer College, Organizational Studies (Pitzer)

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Privatization, Capitalists, Political Contestation, Post-soviet autocracies


Reflecting a chiefly economic approach to understanding political outcomes, a burgeoning literature on post-Soviet political economy finds a strong link between privatization and political pluralism in the region. To test whether the political promise of economic liberalization and the logic of modernization that underlies it hold true, I draw on existing and original data on privatization, pluralism, and opposition movements throughout the region from early independence to the present. The data reveal a fundamentally different formulation of the relationship between economics and politics than that found in the standard causal account. Contrary to approaches that stress the “the primacy of economics” in determining political outcomes, numerous cases of post-Soviet capitalist defection to the political opposition clearly point to “the primacy of politics”: the tangible ways that formal and informal institutions structure economic opportunities and ultimately impinge on individual calculations to comply with, oppose, or seek refuge from the regime.

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© 2012 American Political Science Association