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‘We’ve moved on’
Andrew Monaghan

This chapter focuses on some of the problems that are set in the foundations of Russia's post-Cold War relationship with the West. It then points to problems that emerge from linguistic and historical 'interpretation'. In the West, the Russian middle class is understood to be a driver of political change, part of an evolving entrepreneurial private sector and civil society increasingly free and independent from the state. Swedish analysts have suggested that the Ukraine crisis has revealed that the West and Russia are 'speaking different dialects' on security. The chapter presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book takes the form of an essay about Russia and how it is understood in the West. It examines the evolution of the West's relationship with Russia since the end of the Cold War, focusing particularly on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)–Russia relationship.

in The new politics of Russia
Interpreting change
Author:

This book focuses on the Western difficulties in interpreting Russia. It begins by reflecting on some of the problems that are set in the foundations of Russia's post-Cold War relationship with the West. The book points to problems that emerge from linguistic and historical 'interpretation'. It looks at the impact of Russia's decline as a political priority for the West since the end of the Cold War and the practical impact this has had. It then reflects on the rising influence, especially, but not only, in public policy and media circles, of 'transitionology' as the main lens through which developments in Russia were interpreted. The book then examines the evolution of the West's relationship with Russia since the end of the Cold War, focusing particularly on the NATO–Russia relationship. It focuses on the chronological development of relations and the emergence of strategic dissonance from 2003. The book also looks at Russian domestic politics, particularly the Western belief in and search for a particular kind of change in Russia, a transition to democracy. It continues the exploration of domestic politics, but turns to address the theme of 'Putinology', the focus on Putin as the central figure in Russian politics.

Andrew Monaghan

This chapter attempts to see if there is more to wring out of the 2014 elections and protests in terms of understanding Russian politics. It explores the results of the December elections, contextualising the decline of United Russia (UR). The chapter turns to reflect on the protest demonstrations, compares them to previous protests, then explores their size, make-up and sustainability, and also turns to the presidential elections and Vladimir Putin's victory. The liberal opposition has been completely marginalised, the political opposition that remains is left-leaning and protest is mostly social rather than political. The chapter looks at the political 'reset' that the leadership has attempted to implement. The mainstream orthodoxy was an automatic response to the stimulus of seeing protests as precipitating democratic upheaval and the end of Putin, a reflexive return to 'transitionology' and the hope for democratic change in Russia.

in The new politics of Russia
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The state of surprise
Andrew Monaghan

This chapter explores the reasons for the state of surprise, sketching them out from the starting point of the significant impact of the collapse of the USSR on Western understandings of Russia. It also explores the practical ramifications for the decline of Russia as a political priority on the wider political stage. The chapter outlines some of the problems of the current mainstream discussion of Russia, which is drowning in a discourse of speculation and rumour, 'Putinology' and historical analogies. Despite the dominance of the transitological/regime question approach and the perceived eccentricity of Kremlinology, for many it has remained a truism of Russian political life that the final decisions are made behind the closed doors of the Kremlin. In fact, the collapse of the USSR has had serious ramifications for the study of Russia in the West, resulting in a major reassessment of Soviet studies, often bitter and acrimonious.

in The new politics of Russia
Russia as ‘a Europe apart’
Andrew Monaghan

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many Western officials and observers believed that Russia would return to the 'Western family of nations' after decades of Soviet-era isolation. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have asserted that in annexing Crimea and intervening in eastern Ukraine, Russia is undermining the post-Cold War European security order. This chapter explores conceptual differences that lie at the core of the dissonance. From 2002 and 2003 a chronology of dissonance became increasingly intense, as mutual recriminations became harsher and interpretations of events more visibly incongruous. As with the Cold War era understandings of 'peace', the differences may appear slight but the ramifications are significant. Consequences are twofold – not only is progress in building cooperation hampered, but it contributes to the sense of dual history and divergent conclusions from the same evidence, illustrated by the cyber attack on Estonia in 2007.

in The new politics of Russia
The expansion of state capitalism
Kayhan Valadbaygi

This chapter first explains how the White Revolution led to the forming of an unwritten alliance between all social classes that aimed at overthrowing the Shah’s regime. The main objective of the chapter, however, is to understand the patterns of state and class formation during the first decades of the revolution. It claims that the 1979 revolution did not destroy the socioeconomic foundation of the society since the ISI state-led development even expanded in the first decade of the revolution, albeit against the backdrop of US hostility and under the name of the national liberation of the ‘downtrodden’. Accordingly, a range of measures in favour of the poor and the working class, including the provision of food and other subsidies as well as job security in SOEs, was implemented by the revolutionary state. The chapter argues that these measures, nonetheless, were secondary to the interests of the new ruling class with two fractions. By examining the confiscation of the property of the old ruling class and the extensive nationalisation of the first decade of the revolution under ‘government’ and ‘public’ ownership as two forms of state ownership, it traces the emergence of the stratum of government managers and the bonyad–bazaar nexus as the two fractions of the ruling class in the first decade of the revolution. The chapter emphasises that the legacy of state capitalism and the class character of the revolutionary state have had an indispensable impact on the process of neoliberalisation and the development trajectory of contemporary Iran.

in Capitalism in contemporary Iran
Capital accumulation, state formation and geopolitics

This book traces the patterns of capital accumulation and changes in class and state formation emanating from it in Iran during the global neoliberal era. This analysis proceeds from a relational methodology based on the philosophy of internal relations that problematises the dualism of local/global and national/international. In the first place, this relationality implies that there are inner connections between the nature of contemporary development in Iran, the form of the state, the ongoing sociopolitical transformations in society and the geopolitical tensions with the West. At the same time, it stresses that these issues should be explored in terms of their internal relations to the motions and tendencies of neoliberal global capitalism and resulting geopolitics. Accordingly, the book demonstrates that Iranian neoliberalisation, as a result of global and local shaping factors, has brought about new contested class dynamics that have fundamentally reconstructed the Iranian ruling class and aggressively shaped/reshaped the working class and the poor. It also analyses how the same process has generated a fresh, pivotal impetus that has transformed the state institutions and directly contributed to Iran’s volatile foreign policy, particularly opposing approaches regarding the nuclear programme, relations with the global centres of power (the United States, the European Union, China and Russia) and regional policy. This centrality of class analysis and emphasis on framing Iran inside global class politics and economic processes make the book an original and transformative contribution to the critical research on the political economy of Iran.

From workers’ resistance in the 1990s to the post-2017 uprisings
Kayhan Valadbaygi

This chapter examines the impact of neoliberalism on the subaltern classes and their struggles in contemporary Iran. It identifies two substantial transformations in the composition of the subaltern classes: the rise of the precariat as the largest section of the working class, and the genesis of the new poor consisting of unemployed, educated young people. Then, it documents the resistance of workers since the early 1990s against privatisation, casualisation, redundancies, and overdue pay through various means, including the establishment of independent labour unions and networks. After reviewing the revolts of the poor against the rising cost of living and the elimination of state subsidies in the 1990s and 2000s, the chapter turns its attention to the post-2017 waves of popular uprisings known as the Dey and Aban protests, analysing them as an opposition to the economic crisis generated by the neoliberal policies of the government and US sanctions. It also argues that the Women, Life, Freedom revolt has achieved greater success in galvanising a varied range of societal groups when compared to the post-2017 uprisings. In light of the recent struggles from below, the chapter outlines several central obstacles to the formation of working-class identity and a broad-based subaltern coalition under the leadership of the working class: state repression, a ‘workerist’ understanding of the class struggle, and workers’ indifference to gender and ethnic oppression.

in Capitalism in contemporary Iran
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Future paths under the crisis of neoliberalism, the changing global order and revolts from below
Kayhan Valadbaygi

After summarising the key arguments of the book, this chapter attempts to sketch the possible determinants that could impact the future paths of the Islamic Republic in the context of the global crisis of neoliberalism, the changing global order and the intensification of struggles from below.

in Capitalism in contemporary Iran
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A historical materialist approach
Kayhan Valadbaygi

This chapter presents the conceptual framework and methodological approach of the book. After critically reviewing the existing literature on the process of development in contemporary Iran, it outlines two critiques: mainstream perspectives reproduce methodological nationalism and exceptionalism, while critical scholars do not sufficiently challenge the internal/external (local/global) dichotomy by situating Iran inside the process of internationalisation of capital and global neoliberalism. By deploying the ontology of the philosophy of internal relations, the chapter perceives capitalism as a totality of internally related parts. Based on this perspective, it conceptualises the internationalisation of capital and neoliberalism and their effects on the process of class and state formation in the post-1970s global economy. By claiming the relation of interiority between capitalism and geopolitics, the chapter also illustrates the dialectics of rivalry and competition between the global centres of power (United States, EU, China and Russia) and situates the position of peripheral powers within the hierarchical structure of neoliberal global capitalism. The chapter argues that this approach is suitable for studying contemporary Iran beyond methodological nationalism, Eurocentrism and exceptionalism. This is because this relationality implies that there are inner connections between Iranian neoliberal restructuring, its form of the state, and the geopolitical tensions with the West, as well as sociopolitical transformations in society. Concurrently, it reveals that these issues should be explored in terms of their internal relations to the motions and tendencies of neoliberal global capitalism and resulting geopolitics.

in Capitalism in contemporary Iran