In Russian politics reliable information is scarce, formal relations are of relatively little significance, and things are seldom what they seem. Applying an original theory of political language to narratives taken from interviews with 34 of Russia's leading political figures, Michael Urban explores the ways in which political actors construct themselves with words. By tracing individual narratives back to the discourses available to speakers, he identifies what can and cannot be intelligibly said within the bounds of the country's political culture, and then documents how elites rely on the personal elements of political discourse at the expense of those addressed to the political community. Urban shows that this discursive orientation is congruent with social relations prevailing in Russia and helps to account for the fact that, despite two revolutions proclaiming democracy in the last century, Russia remains an authoritarian state.
• Offers an original theory of political discourse • Employs extensive interviews with 34 top officials in Russia from the Gorbachev through Putin eras and applies a rigorous form of discourse analysis to the interview data • Proposes a conception of civil society in Russia radically different from prevailing Western conceptions and shows its consistence with the speech patterns of the political elite
1. Introduction; 2. Social relations; 3. Community; 4. Morality; 5. Competence; 6. Revolution; 7. Conclusion; Appendix. Sketches of respondents' backgrounds.
Review of the hardback: 'Michael Urban returns to an earlier and less developed theme of his work: the analysis of elite discourse, and its relationship to values and social interactions as a means of understanding politics. Cultures of Power is a conceptual and empirical tour de force, providing a plausible and persuasive explanation for the particular forms of elite discourses in Russian politics by locating them within the specific form of 'civil society' that has developed around elite 'power networks'. This book will further magnify Urban's already significant and distinctive signature in the study of Russia.' James Hughes, London School of Economics
Review of the hardback: 'Michael Urban is one of our leading students of the post-Soviet world, and one whose work is always innovative and challenging. He will add to this reputation with a fine study of elite political discourse in contemporary Russia, based on extended interviews and often quoting them directly. In my view, one of the most illuminating books on Russian politics that has appeared for many years.' Stephen White, University of Glasgow
Review of the hardback: 'In this important book, Michael Urban interprets the ways in which Russian political elites of the Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and Putin eras have variously thought about fundamental issues of political life: society, community, the state, law, morality, and political competence. The book greatly enriches our understanding of changes in Russian elite political culture during the past quarter century.' George W. Breslauer, University of California, Berkeley
'Specialists will enjoy grappling with the nuances of the book, while general readers will be able to develop an appreciation of the complexity of Russian politics today.' Elizabeth A. Wood, Slavic Review