New Kremlinology: The Challenge of Understanding and Studying the Russian Political Regime
In a departure from accounts centred on the failure of democratisation in Russia, my argument begins from a basic assumption that the political regime of Vladimir Putin is a personalist regime in the making. How do regimes turn personalist? How do their rulers acquire and maintain personal control? Focusing on the politics within the Russian ruling coalition since 1999, The New Kremlinology explains the process of regime personalisation, that is, the acquisition of personal power by a political leader. The investigation is based on four components of regime personalisation: patronage networks, deinstitutionalisation, media personalisation, and establishing permanency in office. Drawing from comparative evidence and theories of personalist rule, I explain how Putin's patron-client network became dominant and how, subsequently, the Russian ruler elevated himself above his own ruling coalition. The lessons extend beyond Russia and illuminate how other personalist regimes emerge and develop. Furthermore, the title of the book (the talk is based on a book manuscript under review), The New Kremlinology, is chosen to emphasise not only the subject matter, the what, but also the how --- the battery of innovative methods employed to study the black box of non-democratic politics.