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Cronies, economic crime and capitalism in Putin's sistema



The books included in this review article are essential for the understanding of what I call Putin's sistema—the governance model that originated in the Soviet system but has transformed and adapted to global change. Each book tackles, from a different angle, the issues of Russia's transition and suggests ways to describe its political consequences. The books all attempt to identify some underlying logic or organizing force in a Russian society that has emerged through weak institutions. Although I join the authors in their criticisms of the ‘transition paradigm’ and its ‘opening-breakthrough-consolidation of democracy’ formula, transformations of the Soviet sistema seem to resonate with the ‘opening-breakthrough-consolidation of capitalism’. Perestroika can be seen as an ‘opening’ in shaking the foundations of sistema; Yeltsin's era as a ‘breakthrough’; and Putin's regime as the ‘consolidation’ of capitalism but with its distinct characteristics.