Political Science, Indiana University
Since 2005, nationalization has been described as “the most notable process in the Russian economy.” Yet, the causes of nationalization are poorly understood. My project seeks to address this apparent gap in the literature by developing two mutually reinforcing theoretical accounts of Russia’s nationalization. First, it draws on literature on developmental states to provide a broader conceptual framework for government intervention distinct from the narrow neoliberal rationale for nationalization. Second, it borrows some insights from theories of elite defection under personalist rule to develop a theory of nationalization grounded in key institutional features of post-Soviet regimes. I argue that nationalization challenges the dominant view of economic transition as a straightforward trajectory from central planning to market economy. I suggest an alternative conceptualization of economic transition as a path dependent path creation in which crucial features of Russian neopatrimonial economy are gradually replaced with a production oriented capitalism of a developmental state. Using a hand-collected dataset of the 400 largest Russian companies combined with a qualitative analysis of five industries, I find that state acquisitions have systematically targeted strategic as well as high-tech sectors crucial to economic productivity and growth. This finding calls into question the common interpretation of the expansion of state ownership in Russia as devoid of any economic logic and driven solely by political factors. At the same time, Russia’s economy is imbedded in a neopatrimonial polity, which leaves a distinct political imprint on state intervention in the corporate sector. This means that the political influence of state managers and private owners and their proximity to the power vertical hold the key to the ultimate success of state takeovers. My project contributes to our knowledge of economic and political transitions by suggesting that nationalization is better understood as a complex phenomenon rooted in Russia’s diminished confidence in the Western, neoliberal economic model of development than as an outright “rejection of free-market doctrine” or a sign of inconsistency in the economic transition process.
Anna Lowry is a Ph.D. student in Political Science at Indiana University. Her dissertation examines the interplay between patronage politics and economic development in Russia through an empirical analysis of the determinants of state intervention in strategic and high-technology industries. Anna’s research interests lie in state-business relations, property rights, and the politics of economic reform in post-Soviet Eurasia.
Photo from the field - Anna Lowry