The Politics of Bad Governance in Contemporary Russia

Subjects: Political Science, Governance, Political Economy
Paperback : 9780472055623, 238 pages, 9 figures, 4 tables, 6 x 9, November 2022
Hardcover : 9780472075621, 238 pages, 9 figures, 4 tables, 6 x 9, November 2022
Open Access : 9780472902989, 238 pages, 9 figures, 4 tables, 6 x 9, July 2022

Funding is provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, as part of the Sustainable History Monograph Pilot
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Human history is in reality a history of corrupt governments

Table of contents

List of Figures
List of Tables
Preface and Acknowledgements
Chapter 1. The Politics of Bad Governance – A Framework for Analysis
Chapter 2. Post-Soviet Bad Governance: A Vicious Circle?
Chapter 3. Authoritarian Modernization: Illusions and Temptations
Chapter 4. Opportunities and Constraints: Policy Reforms in the 2000s
Chapter 5. The Technocratic Traps of Policy Reforms
Chapter 6. Success Stories amid Bad Governance
Chapter 7. The Politics of Bad Governance: Russia in Comparative Perspective


In this book, Vladimir Gel’man considers bad governance as a distinctive politico-economic order that is based on a set of formal and informal rules, norms, and practices quite different from those of good governance. Some countries are governed badly intentionally because the political leaders of these countries establish and maintain rules, norms, and practices that serve their own self-interests. Gel’man considers bad governance as a primarily agency-driven rather than structure-induced phenomenon. He addresses the issue of causes and mechanisms of bad governance in Russia and beyond from a different scholarly optics, which is based on a more general rationale of state-building, political regime dynamics, and policy-making. He argues that although these days, bad governance is almost universally perceived as an anomaly, at least in developed countries, in fact human history is largely a history of ineffective and corrupt governments, while the rule of law and decent state regulatory quality are relatively recent matters of modern history, when they emerged as side effects of state-building. Indeed, the picture is quite the opposite: bad governance is the norm, while good governance is an exception. The problem is that most rulers, especially if their time horizons are short and the external constraints on their behavior are not especially binding, tend to govern their domains in a predatory way because of the prevalence of short-term over long-term incentives. Contemporary Russia may be considered as a prime example of this phenomenon. Using an analysis of case studies of political and policy changes in Russia after the Soviet collapse, Gel’man discusses the logic of building and maintaining the politico-economic order of bad governance in Russia and paths of its possible transformation in a theoretical and comparative perspective.

Vladimir Gel’man is Professor at the European University at St. Petersburg and University of Helsinki.

“Vladimir Gel’man’s new book provides a brilliant analysis of the evolution of Russian political institutions in the last thirty years as well as a rigorous discussion of the scenarios for escaping the authoritarian trap. While the book is based on recent research in political science, it is written for a general audience who wants to understand the past, the present, and the future of Russian politics.”
—Sergei Guriev, Sciences Po, Paris

- Sergei Guriev

“In 2022, the whole world was astonished by Russia's invasion of Ukraine—not only by the criminality of the aggressive war, but by the sheer incompetence of the decision-making that led Putin's government to it. Vladimir Gel'man's The Politics of Bad Governance in Contemporary Russia explains how bad governance became the dominant and stable mode of operation in Putin's Russia, stripped the country of chances to grow and develop, and ultimately resulted in a corrupt, inefficient, poorly informed system of government that made the war possible.”
—Konstantin Sonin, University of Chicago

- Konstantin Sonin

“Gel’man has long been one of the most original voices on Russian politics and his lively prose and vivid analogies are on full display in ThPolitics of Bad Governance in Contemporary Russia. By reframing the study of governance, Gel’man helps us understand why the Russian state usually, but not always, underperforms. An important work that will be required reading for anyone interested in governance or Russian politics.”
—Timothy M. Frye, Columbia University

- Timothy M. Frye

“At a time when Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has drawn renewed global attention to the inner workings of Putin's regime, Vladimir Gel'man has provided the best account yet of just why Russia's state institutions—despite decades of attempted reform after the Soviet collapse—still perform so poorly. Gel'man's detailed analysis shows clearly that bad governance in Russia was not the foreordained result of past historical legacies or cultural patterns, but rather a product of the self-interested choices of predatory elites. Anyone wanting to understand the domestic sources of Putinism simply must read this book.”
—Stephen E. Hanson, William & Mary College

- Stephen E. Hanson

“This powerful new book persuasively explains why contemporary Russia, like many other countries in the world, suffers from bad governance. For Gel’man, bad governance is neither an inevitable consequence of problematic institutional legacies nor a regrettable failure of elite attempts to govern well. Instead, bad governance represents a purposeful, self-serving, and perverse success story for Russia’s authoritarian elites.”
—Juliet Johnson, McGill University

- Juliet Johnson

“In this engaging work, Gel'man challenges long-standing ideas about good governance, why Russia has bad governance, and the assumption that governance in Russia may improve. In doing so, he presents us with an enormously valuable and timely perspective about how we should think about Russian politics today.” 
—Sarah Wilson Sokhey, University of Colorado Boulder

- Sarah Wilson Sokhey

“An original contribution to the study of Russian governance, rent-seeking, state building, and regime change. This is a serious piece of scholarship assessing the development of Russia’s political system in the post-Communist era, offering valuable insights into how and why Russia, despite its high level of economic development, exhibits so many features of bad governance, such as weak rule of law, near-universal rent-seeking, corruption, poor regulation, and government ineffectiveness.”
—Hilary Appel, Claremont McKenna College

- Hilary Appel

"[T]his is an impressive book. Gel’man’s analysis is timely, astute, and a depressing read for all who strive to understand the dynamics of Russian politics and its consequences for the world. Having written some early works on the topic of bad governance and contributed greatly to its development into a research field of its own, Gel’man presents an important synthesis of a key part of his scholarly activities. The result is a book that offers necessary reading and somber reflection."
- Eurasian geography and economics

- Bo Petersson

"Gel’man (European Univ., St. Petersburg, Russia) makes a persuasive argument that the main characteristic of the post-Soviet Russian political system is 'bad governance.' . . . Recommended."

- J. W. Peterson

"The Politics of Bad Governance is an important contribution to Russian politics and policy, and authoritarian and comparative politics more generally."

- Scott Radnitz, University of Wisconsin

Read: Vladimir Gel’man's contribution to Russia.Post | July 14, 2022