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Protest and the Politics of Blame

The Russian Response to Unpaid Wages

Debra Javeline

Publication Year: 2003

The wage arrears crisis has been one of the biggest problems facing contemporary Russia. At its peak, it has involved some $10 billion worth of unpaid wages and has affected approximately 70 percent of the workforce. Yet public protest in the country has been rather limited. The relative passivity of most Russians in the face of such desperate circumstances is a puzzle for students of both collective action and Russian politics. In Protest and the Politics of Blame, Debra Javeline shows that to understand the Russian public's reaction to wage delays, one must examine the ease or difficulty of attributing blame for the crisis. Previous studies have tried to explain the Russian response to economic hardship by focusing on the economic, organizational, psychological, cultural, and other obstacles that prevent Russians from acting collectively. Challenging the conventional wisdom by testing these alternative explanations with data from an original nationwide survey, Javeline finds that many of the alternative explanations come up short. Instead, she focuses on the need to specify blame among the dizzying number of culprits and potential problem solvers in the crisis, including Russia's central authorities, local authorities, and enterprise managers. Javeline shows that understanding causal relationships drives human behavior and that specificity in blame attribution for a problem influences whether people address that problem through protest. Debra Javeline is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Rice University.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Interests, Identities, and Institutions


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pp. vii-viii

List of Figures

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pp. ix-x

List of Tables

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p. xi

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pp. xiii-xv

Four institutions were indispensable in bringing this book to fruition. First, I thank the Office of Research at the U.S. State Department (formerly the U.S. Information Agency). I collected the data during my time as a social science research analyst with the office, and I benefited tremendously from the supportive and energetic leadership of Steven Grant, Ann...

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pp. 1-11

It is December 1998, and Vadim and Natasha Stanev have not received a full salary on a regular basis since 1992. Both are employed—they work at the Kosfo shoe factory in Kostroma in Russia’s Volga region—but they are often not paid. Like other workers at the factory, they are owed several months of back wages. The Stanevs’ expenses include food, clothing, a seventy ruble (four...

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Chapter 1. Why Blame Attribution Matters for Protest

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pp. 13-51

Why do some individuals and groups address their grievances through collective action, while others endure their situation passively? One explanation rests on the complexity of the grievance. If a grievance is complicated, having numerous causes and numerous potential problem solvers, it is difficult to single out any one cause or remedy and to channel demands...

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Chapter 2. Wage Arrears in Russia: A Difficult Issue

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pp. 53-95

What happened to the missing fifty-five trillion rubles in wage arrears? Why have Russian workers not been getting paid regularly? These are huge and difficult questions that have puzzled even economists specializing in Russian affairs. Since the 1990s, Desai and Idson have tackled the problem with numerous working papers and a book, Work without...

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Chapter 3. Whom Russians Blame for Wage Arrears

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pp. 97-128

Given the complexities of the wage arrears crisis and the numerous parties who have allegedly contributed to it, how have Russians sorted through all this information and figured out whom or what to blame? Can Russians sort through all this information and figure out whom or what to blame? We may infer from the literatures on social psychology and economic voting...

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Chapter 4. The Politics of Blame

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pp. 129-159

Ordinary Russians have varied not only in their opinions about the cause of wage, pension, and stipend delays but also in whether they have identified a cause at all. Some have attributed blame for the arrears crisis with great precision and conviction, and some have not. These differences have played an important role politically. Those Russians who have most...

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Chapter 5. Alternative Explanations for the Russian Response to Wage Arrears

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pp. 161-222

An explanation about the difficulty of blame attribution is not the one most commonly offered to explain Russian responses to the wage arrears crisis. Most explanations instead focus on the economic, psychological, cultural, and organizational obstacles that have prevented Russian workers from acting collectively. Such explanations therefore address only half...

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Chapter 6. Implications

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pp. 223-242

The Russian public has considered the wage arrears crisis one of the biggest problems—if not the single biggest problem—facing the country, yet only a minority of those experiencing arrears have mobilized to protest the situation. Instead, most Russians have endured the situation without taking any political action. Their reaction confounds the expectations of...

Appendix A. How the Survey Was Conducted

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pp. 243-245

Appendix B. Survey Questions

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pp. 247-265


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pp. 267-283


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pp. 285-291

E-ISBN-13: 9780472024773
E-ISBN-10: 0472024779
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472113064
Print-ISBN-10: 0472113062

Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 35 drawings, 27 tables
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: Interests, Identities, and Institutions
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OCLC Number: 654755350
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Protest and the Politics of Blame

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Social psychology -- Russia (Federation).
  • Social surveys -- Russia (Federation).
  • Wages -- Russia (Federation).
  • Blame -- Political aspects -- Russia (Federation).
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