Abstract

This article explores the various ways in which Karen Dawisha’s book Putin’s Kleptocracy improves our understanding of the impact of elite behavior on postcommunist politics. It focuses specifically on the modes of agency whereby Vladimir Putin and his collaborators transposed cultural schemas, mobilized polysemic resources and launched concrete projects. The text also offers an analysis of the Putin clique’s modus operandi, and in particular of how knowledge about Western legal and illegal economic practices is utilized and how the preference for secret actions affects Russian political elites’ capacity to form alliances with important social constituencies. Finally, the paper examines one of the most compelling messages that Putin’s Kleptocracy conveys, namely that a discrepancy exists between the objective pursued by Putin, the rise of Russia as a global power, and the organizational strategy which he deploys in pursuit of this project, single-minded reliance on strong personal ties – a strategy that undermines the institutional basis of Russian statehood and renders undeliverable the benefits of good governance.

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