This article evaluates two theoretical approaches to the popularity and resilience of authoritarianism in Russia, namely political culture and social contract theory. These approaches are two of the most important theories of Russian politics and also reflect the general divide in comparative and post-communist politics between political-cultural and rationalist explanations. We demonstrate that these approaches are bound up with different notions of legitimacy. This article suggests that neither framework offers a complete explanation of the Russian case. We develop an alternative framework that bridges these two approaches. Our analysis suggests that the social contract in Russia needs to be analysed as dynamic and conditional. Moreover, the use of different legitimation strategies by Russian authorities suggests that leaders can reshape the social contract and gain support in a strategic fashion by choosing appeals related to political culture.
- regime stability
- social contract
- political culture
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- School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies - Senior Lecturer in Politics