May 01, 2019

The New Ideological Fetish

The New Ideological Fetish
Moscow City Nikolai Maslennikov

Grigory Yavlinsky is an economist and a leading opposition politician in post-Soviet Russia. He was the Yabloko Party’s presidential candidate in 2018. This reading is excerpted from his most recent book The Putin System.

A classical authoritarian power tends not to be overly concerned with developing an integrated universal ideology; instead, it focuses on control over the resources of financial and administrative power, without seeking to rule the minds and thoughts of the population it governs. It does not pay that much attention to what the population thinks, and when it does, this attention is usually limited to a bunch of platitudes loudly proclaimed as the official ideology — typically along the lines of being on the side of everything that people view as good and being against all evil.

This principle is undoubtedly true when an autocracy is in its formative stage or is at its peak and is confident enough to have no need for an additional prop in the form of a universal and mandatory ideology. This is also the safer course, as the use of such an ideology as a tool of governance carries with it not only potential benefits but also certain complications and risks. Ideologies often invoke deeply held feelings and instincts that are easy to arouse but extremely difficult to control or tame when government interests require it.

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