'Obshchestvennyi Kontrol'' [Public Scrutiny] from Discourse to Action in Contemporary Russia: The Emergence of Authoritarian Neoliberal Governance
Owen, Catherine Anne May
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
I am preparing significant sections of the thesis for publication.
This thesis explores the emergence and proliferation of public consultative bodies (PCBs) in contemporary Russia. Created by the government and regulated by law, PCBs are formal groups of NGO leaders, academics, journalists, entrepreneurs and public figures selected by the state, that perform advisory, monitory and support functions to government departments and individuals at federal, regional and municipal levels. The concept of obshchestvennyi kontrol’ (public scrutiny) is employed by Kremlin to refer to the dual activities of oversight and assistance, which PCBs are intended to enact. First appearing ten years ago with the foundation of the Federal Public Chamber in 2004, there are now tens of thousands of PCBs in operation across the country. This thesis constitutes the first systematic analysis of PCBs in English. It uses a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) approach in order to explore the extent to which the portrayal of PCBs in government discourse corresponds to the practices enacted through these institutions in three regional case studies of Moscow, St Petersburg and Samara. It finds that although PCBs are presented by federal and regional leaders as means for citizens merely to assist the authorities in the performance of tasks decided by the state, in practice PCBs can enable citizens modestly to influence policy outcomes and occasionally to shape public agendas. They therefore cannot be dismissed as mere ‘window dressing’ for the authorities. The thesis shows that PCBs were created as part of the market reform of the Soviet-era public sector, in which processes of privatisation, outsourcing and decentralisation reduced the state’s ability to make public policy without input from domestic non-state actors. It argues that the limited participation in governance afforded to citizens through PCBs exemplifies practices of ‘authoritarian neoliberal governance’, a concept that captures the attempts by the state to control policy outcomes produced through new public participatory mechanisms arising from the marketization of state bureaucracy. Although the thesis focuses on the case of Russia, the concept of ‘authoritarian neoliberal governance’ raises the question of the existence of commensurable mechanisms in other non-democratic polities.
University of Exeter studentship
PhD in Politics