Monday, October 23, 2017

Putin’s System Facing a Legitimacy Crisis Among Elites, Zeitlin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 23 – The hybrid legitimation of his system Vladimir Putin has relied on, a combination of the three Weberian ideal types – rational-legal, charismatic, and traditional – is in trouble because of the degradation of the first and the resentments the second and third are sparking among elites, according to Boris Zeitlin.

            That situation which is close to a crisis, the Moscow commentator says, is pushing the country in the direction of totalitarianism in which even Putin be at risk and leading others to conclude that the only way to avoid disaster is to seek “the full restoration” of rational-legal legitimacy residing in the population as a whole (

            In order to understand what has happened to this hybrid system of legitimation, Zeitlin suggests, one should begin with “the so-called Russian parliament” which has become “a pace for discussing only one important question – who and to what extent will gain access to the feeding trough” of money controlled by the new nomenklatura.

            The Moscow analyst says that “in Weberian terms, this stratum may be called a patrimonial administration,” with the caveat that it follows not so much its own interests as the interests of the “’master’” of the state. Divvying up the spoils occurs not on the basis of clear rules, however, and thus “does not correspond to the principle of rational exchange.”

            “Besides this, the faith [of this stratum] in Putin as an effective manager and arbiter of these agreements is situational” rather than absolute and that is driving the system in a regressive fashion toward the model of power “guaranteed not by procedures or charisma or even tradition but more to archaic categories” like “’the right of the strongest.’”

            But Zeitlin argues that “the right of the deputies” who represent “not the people but the nomenklatura” has the effect of “introducing hybridization” because it undermines the very principles of rational-legal legitimacy and forces participants to look for other factors to justify and legitimate the system.

            One of the demands of these elites is observing the Constitution and its most important provision for them – “the primacy of international law since they keep all their savings abroad. Recently we see a violation of this principle not only in the application of laws but even in the process of drafting and adopting legislation.”

            As a result of that, Zeitlin continues, there has arisen “a crisis of rationality in the bureaucracy and the entire nomenklatura,” a degradation of the situation “both at the level of particular individuals and of cadres policy as a whole.” And that in turn has mean that the two groups “have lost the habit of both effective and stable administration … in their own interests but not those of the people.”

            “Most likely,” he continues, “they have lost as well the habits of rational calculation as a whole both at the level of worldview and in the construction of personal life strategies.”  And that has meant in turn that “they have ceased to be a rational political subject and have entrusted their fate to a charismatic leader.”

            They expect two things from him: at least some wealth from his table and the ability to “’defense the sovereignty of the country in the international arena.’”  There is less and less of the former, and the second is becoming problematic because the interests of the nomenklatura which puts its wealth abroad and their faith in the ruler contradict one another.

            “Sanctions,” Zeitlin says, “are the last attempt to return them to rationality, for it is obvious that having portion of self-legitimation, they will lose power as well, and this means they will be forced to subordinate themselves to a totalitarian Movement headed by a charismatic leader.”

            That drive is not being directed by the leader “who himself is more a medium than a manager.” Instead, he is being led by “the principle of irrational exchange, that is, sacrificing himself to the divinity of a political religion.” And that means that if things proceed very war, “no one, including the leader himself, will be able to feel secure.”

            “The only alternative to such de-hybridization,” the commentator concludes, “is its opposite: the complete restoration of rational-legal legitimacy because only the return to the people of the right to make decisions via parliamentary discussion can eliminate the resentment which is destroying its capacity for rational thought.”

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