Politics versus Policy: Technocratic Traps of Russia’s Policy Reforms

In: Russian Politics
Vladimir Gel’man European University, St Petersburg and University of Helsinki,

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A number of policy reforms in post-Soviet Russia have been conducted within the framework of the technocratic model. Policy proposals have been developed and to some extent implemented by certain teams of professionals appointed by legitimate political leaders. The leaders, in turn, have tended to monopolize policy adoption and evaluation and to insulate the substance of reforms from public opinion. This article is devoted to a critical reassessment of the technocratic model of policy-making in the context of changes of the 1990s–2010s. The main focus of the analysis is on the political and institutional constraints of policy-making resulting from the influence of interest groups and mechanisms of governance within the state apparatus. Poor quality of governance and rent-seeking aspirations of major actors create significant barriers for reforms, while insulation of policy-making, although beneficial for technocratic reformers themselves, has resulted in an increase to the social costs of reforms and distorted their substantive outcomes. In the conclusion, possible alternatives to the technocratic model are discussed.

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